EUGENE, OR—Joey Terzik, a Eugene-area 18-year-old, filed a formal complaint with the Oregon Department of Labor Monday, citing a "gross lack of sexual harassment" in his workplace.
Terzik, a cook at Jake's Pizza in Eugene, is calling for a work environment in which sexual innuendo, pressure for sexual activity and unsolicited touching by female co-workers is strongly encouraged.
"I want to walk into work each day comfortable in the knowledge that I may be fondled by a member of the opposite sex," said Terzik. "Every person should have the same right to sexual harassment, regardless of age, sex or severity of acne."
Terzik presented Labor Department officials with a report documenting at least 22 instances in which harassment did not occur in his place of work, but should have.
In one such instance, Terzik walked into the kitchen and mentioned "how hot it was" to lead prep cook Rebecca Stanton, 20, who merely nodded in response. "She could have said, 'It sure is hot, now that you're here,' or told me to take off my shirt, but she didn't even look at me," Terzik said.
"Not once," Terzik said, "have I been made to feel like a sexual object instead of a co-worker."
According to psychologists, frequent and serious sexual harassment is crucial to the proper development of a teenage boy's self-esteem. "A young boy needs to feel sexually desirable, especially on the job," noted therapist Dr. Eli Wasserbaum said. "It can be very damaging to his still-forming social psyche if he senses he is unwanted by female employees. A grope from a female co-worker can do wonders during this extremely important stage of sexual development."
Sexual harassment experts say that often, in cases of workplace harassment, the victim is threatened with job termination if he or she does not comply with the sexual demands of a superior. Nothing of the sort has ever happened to Terzik.
"Once, Tina, the assistant manager, told me to meet her in the supply shed, and I was sure we were gonna do it," Terzik said. "But it turned out she just wanted me to flatten a bunch of boxes for the dumpster."
Terzik said that although female co-workers frequently used potentially sexually suggestive job-related terms like "breadstick," "sausage" and "hand-tossed," never did they actually use them in a sexually suggestive manner. On two occasions, a female manager asked Terzik to "work the late shift with me," but in both instances no sexual activity took place.
Terzik said he filed the formal complaint only after all other attempts to remedy the situation failed. In May, after working more than 300 shifts without a single sexual advance, Terzik authored and distributed a pamphlet to female employees titled Sexual Harassment On The Job: A How-To Guide. Last weekend, Terzik attempted picketing outside the pizzeria to draw attention to the store management's fostering of a work environment that he calls "too-safe," but the protest ended when manager Hal Porter made him go inside and change the syrup for the Mountain Dew.
Terzik suggested that the pizzeria adopt the more enlightened harassment policies of the Sub Shack, located across the street. "I hear the counter workers are always feeling each other up behind the bread racks," he said.
If the Department of Labor fails to act, Terzik plans to take his case to court. "This humiliation is unacceptable and cannot continue," he said. "I've been lifting weights three times a week, and I haven't even gotten so much as a 'What up, baby' from one of the delivery drivers. Sexual harassment is a right, not a privilege."