Each year we send our daughters (and sons) into the workforce with pride and glee. Although that first job is a great induction to independence, compensation, and adulting – it can also be a young person’s first brush with sexual harassment, discrimination, and crass language and actions.
I have 4 nieces and 2 nephews in total, but earlier this spring I was spending time with my now 20-year-old niece and we were discussing jobs. She had her first job at 17 years old at a burger joint. During our conversation, she told me that this co-worker sexually harassed her. I had never heard about it prior to this conversation and I was pissed off!
I said, “What? What happened? Why didn’t you tell me?”
She said, “My momma (my sister) took care of it. She went to the store and cussed the manager and the worker out!”
My niece was satisfied with that outcome, but I wasn’t. I asked what happened and she explained that it started with him brushing up against her behind at first. She thought it was an accident at first, but he did it again and there was plenty of room for him to get by her. The next thing he did was just overtly grab her behind. She said when that happened she punched him, cussed him, and told the manager. The manager said they would take care of it and make sure the co-worker did not bother her again. That evening is when my niece told her mother and she went to the restaurant and exchanged words with the manager. They even threaten to tell her father who is not above handling things on his own.
Listening to my niece tell me this story made me mad and proud of her for defending herself and telling her mother. I wished she had told me – I would have gone to the restaurant too and given them a mix of “street” Chris and “human resources” Chris. But more than that, I felt like I let my niece down by not preparing her beforehand. When she got the job, I should have sat her down and explained that people are disgusting, rude, and nasty sometimes. I would have explained her legal rights and encouraged her to also tell me if something like that had happened. I would have demanded that this co-worker be fired! I would have written a nice letter to corporate as well demanding something be done and my niece is compensated for the incidents.
Most writers would say something like, “In this day and age of #MeToo and #TimesUp…” but I am not going to go there because sexual harassment has been around for as long as man. One would think that offenders would be more careful these days however that’s not human nature – for some reason humans always think that they can get away with it. They feel like they won’t get caught. And we are aware of the “boys will be boys” sentiment. And maybe they are right, according to this article on The Root, “The “likelihood” of white women reporting sexual harassment in the workplace dropped more than 70 percent in the 20-year period studied, but among black women, that same rate only dropped 38 percent.
“It seems as though men have gotten more careful about who they’re harassing, and have been targeting women of color,”
We have to protect our girls – ALL OF OUR GIRLS! If you have boys, teach them to be respectful or “street” Chris might have too.