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Are young employees more prone to workplace harassment?

Young employees, or those just starting out in their careers, are some of the most eager and passionate about their work. When new to the workforce, you tend to go the extra mile and do what your more tenured co-workers ask you to do. As someone new to the workforce, you could be more susceptible to workplace harassment. Being unfamiliar with workplace culture and norms makes it difficult to recognize the line between teasing and harassment.   

A national study in 2023 reported that three out of five young employees, or those under 25 years old, have experienced some form of workplace harassment. Respondents of the study identified verbal and sexual harassment as the most common workplace harassment they experienced. Most workplace harassment happens in the health care, food service, and customer service industries. 

Workplace harassment still happens amidst the efforts of employers to provide an inclusive and caring work environment. It comes in different forms, such as discrimination, physical, verbal or sexual harassment, and bullying. But sometimes, it goes unrecognized, unreported, and thus, unresolved. When you feel uncomfortable, check for the following signs of workplace harassment: 

  • Sexual harassment: This could be unwelcomed and offensive remarks on your sexual orientation or physical advances that are sexual in nature. This could include frequent or severe offhand comments or teasing.  
  • Racial discrimination: This could be any mistreatment based on your race or characteristics associated with your race, like skin color or hair texture. This could also include offensive or derogatory remarks about your race.  
  • Ability-based harassment: If you live with a disability, whether physical or mental, this could come in the form of teasing or isolation.  
  • Power harassment: This could come as bullying involving office hierarchy. When your supervisor has demands that are beyond your capability or outside the scope of your job, it might come across as power harassment. 

The social pressure to fit in could be one of the reasons why young employees tolerate or brush off these signs of workplace harassment. They also often lack the confidence to resist unwelcome advances, putting them at risk. 

It is important to know the different grounds for workplace discrimination and harassment. Do not be afraid to take necessary actions if you feel uncomfortable in your workplace. Report any form of mistreatment to your supervisor or Human Resources department. You can also collect evidence, such as emails or chat messages, which could be helpful if you decide to file a case against your co-workers or employer.