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Millions of Young Adults Preparing to Join Labor Force this Summer

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today offered tips to companies that employ teenagers and called on the employer community to promote fair, inclusive, and discrimination-free workplaces for millions of young people who are preparing to enter the labor force this summer – some for the first time.

At the height of last summer (July 2005), more than seven million young people age 16-19 joined the U.S. workforce, according to the U.S. Department or Labor. “As summer begins, we urge employers to heighten their awareness of workplace issues affecting our nation’s youth,” said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. “Proactive prevention is the key to stopping employment discrimination before it starts.”

EEOC Vice Chair Naomi C. Earp, who is leading the agency’s national Youth@Work Initiative, said, “Many employers rely on young workers to help manage the busy summer months, making such employment a win-win situation. I encourage industries that depend on young workers to be extra vigilant over the next several months, as youth employment swells. Create an environment in which young workers can learn, develop, and thrive. Our next generation of workers will carry the lessons you share throughout their careers.”

EEOC offered employers the following tips to promote voluntary compliance and prevent harassment and discrimination cases involving young workers:

  • Encourage open, positive and respectful interactions with young workers.
  • Remember that awareness, through early education and communication, is the key to prevention.
  • Establish a strong corporate policy for handling complaints.
  • Provide alternate avenues to report complaints and identify appropriate staff to contact.
  • Encourage young workers to come forward with concerns and protect employees who report problems or otherwise participate in EEO investigations from retaliation.
  • Post company policies on discrimination and complaint processing in visible locations, such as near the time clock or break area, or include the information in a young worker’s first paycheck.
  • Clearly communicate, update, and reinforce discrimination policies and procedures in a language and manner young workers can understand.
  • Provide early training to managers and employees, especially front-line supervisors.
  • Consider hosting an information seminar for the parents or guardians of teens working for the organization.

In September 2004, the EEOC launched its national Youth@Work Initiative, a comprehensive outreach and education campaign designed to inform teens about their employment rights and responsibilities, and to help employers create positive first work experiences for young adults. Thus far, the EEOC has held more than 1,300 Youth@Work events nationwide, reaching approximately 100,000 students, education professionals, and employers.

As part of the Youth@Work Initiative, the agency is also developing partnerships with business leaders, human resource groups, industry and trade associations, and others to further explore the trends and challenges affecting young people in the 21st century workplace. EEOC’s Youth@Work partners include the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the National Education Association, and local chambers of commerce.

On May 1, 2006, the EEOC announced a unique federal-state partnership with the Rhode Island Commission on Human Rights and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, in which Youth@Work posters are being installed on all public transit authority buses statewide. The posters will remain on the buses throughout the year, reaching an estimated 60,000 young people and adults on a daily basis. EEOC hopes to emulate this partnership effort in other states.

In addition to seeking partnerships with the private and public sectors, the two other main components of the EEOC's Youth@Work initiative are: a youth web site at (English) or (Spanish) dedicated to educating young workers about their equal employment opportunity rights and responsibilities; and a series of free national outreach events by EEOC Commissioners and field office staff for high school students, youth organizations, educators, and small businesses who employ young workers. Further information about the Youth@Work initiative and the laws enforced by the EEOC is available on the agency’s main web site at