For new college students, juggling the demands of coursework, extra-curricular activities and a part-time job or internship can be challenging enough. Having to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace as well can make the college experience seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way, and students in California have resources to aid them in handling this problem.

Surveys have shown that 1 in 3 teens report being sexually harassed at work, though the number may in fact be higher due to underreporting. Young part-time workers, typically in the lowest positions in a workplace, may be isolated from the workplace culture and not have friends with whom they can share concerns about harassment. They may be afraid of retaliation or a loss of newfound autonomy if they report abuse to superiors or to their families. Finally, they may not be aware of their rights and of the employer’s responsibilities with regard to abuse and discrimination in the workplace.

According to experts, workers have a right to report sexual harassment to an employer and to have the employer put a stop to it. Victims of unwanted sexual advances or quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is more serious, should contact the police or the EEOC. Students experiencing such harassment in a college or university job can refer to their school’s sexual harassment policy for information on whom to contact and what procedures to follow.

Young people are especially vulnerable to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment, but they can be empowered by knowing their rights and taking action to protect themselves. An attorney can often aid students and their families in the process of documenting and reporting abuse and even in seeking legal damages if the circumstances of the case warrant a lawsuit.

Source: USA Today, “Know your rights: What students can do about sexual harassment in the workplace,” Alexandra Samuels, March 6, 2015