Workplace Harassment

Are you sure if your working kid was being harassed at their job they would tell you?

So many of us were transfixed this past week by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice of our neighbors to the south. Nope, there will be nothing political in what you are about to read – just an observation that can be extrapolated to workplace safety regardless of how you see that particular situation.

What did come to mind was the window in to the mindset of a teenager as told through the eyes of their adult self about their response to the actions of another person that caused them trauma.

Sadly, their response to the world was silence, including to those who cared deeply about them.

Now how does this relate to workplace safety?

Research has shown that young people who have dealt with psychosocial hazards at their first jobs do not necessarily share these experiences with their parents or other trusted adults in their spheres. These hazards include bullying, physical aggression and actions of a sexual nature both verbal and physical. In fact, they may not share them with anyone.

For some young workers, this may result in them quitting their jobs and distancing themselves from the situation. For others who may have financial obligations and a fear of not finding other employment, it could mean returning to terrible workplace conditions day after day and suffering in silence.

While some young people may exhibit the signs associated with the stress of psychosocial hazards like sleeplessness, moodiness and depression, parents might be led to believe that these symptoms are being caused by other aspects of being a teenager.

There is something that adults can do. Ask the right questions. These could include questions about their workplaces in general. Questions about the people with whom they work. And listen closely while watching for any non-verbal clues. This could be a sudden resistance to making eye-contact, crossing their arms and/or legs, etc.

If you have any suspicions, remind them of their worker rights including the right to refuse unsafe work. They need to understand that unsafe work is not just about protecting them from working with dangerous equipment for which they have no training or poor air quality. It also includes every form of harassment or other factors relating to their mental well-being.

Equipping them with this knowledge, the confidence to use it and your unconditional support can play a pivotal role in them having healthy workplace experiences in the short and long term.

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