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With summer just around the corner, employment attorneys are cautioning companies about a substantial problem in the workplace: allegations of sexual harassment of teenage employees. Employment attorneys are noting that many businesses have recently been hit with lawsuits resulting in six-figure settlements. This month, a McDonald’s Corp. franchise in Denver agreed to pay $505,000 to settle claims that a group of teenage girls were subjected to egregious sexual harassment � including unwanted touching and lewd comments � by a male supervisor. EEOC v. Jobec, No. 06-cv-01871-MSK-CB (D. Colo.). In 2007, another lawsuit involving McDonald’s employees resulted in a $550,000 settlement to resolve claims that eight teenage girls were subjected to lewd comments and unwanted touching by a male supervisor while working at restaurants in Arizona and California. EEOC v. GLC Restaurants Inc., No. CIV- 05-0618-PCT-DGC (D. Ariz.). There’s also Carmike Cinemas Inc., a large movie theater chain that paid $765,000 in 2005 to settle claims that a male supervisor sexually harassed a group of male teenage employees. EEOC v. Carmike Cinemas Inc., No. 5:04-CV-673-BO(1) (E.D.N.C.). “These teenagers are bringing actions,” said Michael Cohen, an attorney at Philadelphia’s WolfBlock who on May 20 will host a seminar on teens in the workplace for employers in his Philadelphia office. “What companies need to understand is that when [teenagers] come into the workplace, this is not the classroom,” Cohen said. “This is not campus. This is a workplace, and the things that you can do in class you’re certainly not permitted to do here.” Cohen believes that teenage-harassment suits are the result of a crackdown by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in 2004 established an outreach plan � [email protected] Initiative � that involved going into schools and teaching kids about their rights in the workplace. EEOC spokesman David Grinberg said the commission launched its initiative in 2004 after noticing a rise in EEOC litigation alleging sexual harassment of teenagers, from one lawsuit in 1999 to 30 in 2004. He explained that the EEOC does not track sexual harassment complaints by age, so it does not have actual numbers. EEOC actions are down However, Grinberg added, in recent years, EEOC lawsuits alleging teenage harassment have started to drop, from 30 in 2004, to 19 in 2005 and 15 in 2006. “There are still cases out there. It’s a problem, but it’s a problem that we have identified, addressed and are working to correct,” Grinberg said. But employers are still fearful. “I keep reading all these large settlements, and saying, ‘It’s my small clients that should be aware of this,’ ” said Ronald J. Cappuccio, a solo practitioner in Cherry Hill, N.J., who last week alerted his clients through a Web message about costly teenage-harassment lawsuits.

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