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Low-wage workers likely to suffer from harassment at work

A hostile workplace can affect any worker; however, low-wage workers often have a more difficult time proving sexual harassment and other similar issues in court. This is because the court often upholds a very narrow definition of which employees are classified as supervisors.

In some cases, a supervisor is someone who is in charge of other workers. That definition, however, is often narrowed by adding in the stipulation that only the employees who are in charge of other workers and who can hire and fire employees are supervisors. With that narrow definition, harassment by low-level supervisors is often overlooked.

When it comes to the low-wage workforce, women outnumber men. In fact, women account for more than three-fourths of occupations that typically pay less than $10.10 per hour. This workforce category includes cashiers, personal care aides, home health aides, childcare workers, housekeepers and maids.

The women who are part of the low-wage workforce are often struggling. They usually have many different responsibilities and can't afford to have their income jeopardized because of harassment.

One industry that has a marked problem with harassment by supervisors is the restaurant industry. This industry pays very low wages, which means that restaurant employees who are harassed by supervisors can't usually cope with the effects. An example would be a worker who had her hours cut by a supervisor who was upset about denied sexual advances.

Any employee, regardless of pay rate, should understand that a hostile workplace full of sexual harassment and other actions isn't something he or she has to deal with. The law protects workers from sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

Source: National Women, "Reality check: Seventeen million reasons low-wage workers need strong protections from harassment," accessed May. 08, 2015

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