Sexual harassment is a serious issue in workplaces, particularly in restaurants. Restaurants are the largest source of sexual harassment legal complaints in comparison to any other sector in the US.
You are responsible as the owner or manager to provide a safe workplace for workers who can experience sexual harassment from coworkers, supervisors, or customers.
The particular challenges of restaurants as workplaces include workers working in close quarters to each other, plus a stressful high-paced environment in which judgment can be negatively impacted, often complicated by the presence of alcohol. Remember that tone is often set at the top, and a workplace that is a “free for all” of sexual commentary can make individuals think that anything goes.
Sexual harassment is endemic across the industry, it affects all workers but has the heaviest impact on women, transgender people, and tipped workers. Most workers decide to ignore or put up with inappropriate sexual comments and behavior afraid of being publicly humiliated, losing their tips or even their jobs. When workers feel that reporting sexual harassment is not an option, they may call out sick or look for another job, bringing financial loss to all ends. Most importantly, the issue of sexual harassment keeps unattended for the staff, putting the most vulnerable workers in emotional and physical danger and the business' reputation in the line.
If you do not know about sexual harassment you can’t do anything to stop it, this is why you need to encourage reporting.
It is important to have a sexual harassment policy in place so people easily identifies what is sexual harassment and they know who to talk to. Train all staff about sexual harassment. Individuals should be encouraged to report issues and supervisors need to know what to do if someone makes a complaint. A key point is that it is important to take complaints seriously --if word spreads that you do not take them seriously, then no one will report in the future. Retaliation against people who report is also often an issue that will not only discourage reporting but make you legally liable.
It is our work to help restaurants have a safe environment for all in our city. Contact us for more information.