What to know about harassment in the restaurant industry

What to know about harassment in the restaurant industry

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2023 | Discrimination, Employment Law - Employee

As a restaurant worker, you have a tough job. You’re on your feet for hours on end juggling multiple duties and dealing with customers who have high expectations. The pay can be low, and the hours can be long, meaning that you might feel like you have to grind every day to make what you need to get by.

As if that’s not stressful enough, your workplace environment might be detrimental to your emotional, psychological, and physical safety, and it might pose a threat to your career. This is certainly the case for those restaurant workers who are subjected to sexual harassment, which is way more common than most people realize.

How common is sexual harassment in the restaurant industry?

Sexual harassment is widespread in the restaurant industry. One study found that up to 70% of women in this field reported being sexually harassed at their place of work. Many of these women say they are subjected to harassment on a weekly or even daily basis.

Why is harassment so common in the restaurant industry?

There are several reasons. Here are some of the biggest contributing factors:

  • Turnover: There’s a lot of turnover in the restaurant industry. As a result, those who are subjected to harassment oftentimes find it easier to leave their job rather than file a complaint and proceed through the process of stopping the behavior to which they’re being subjected. This causes a lot of sexual harassment to go unreported and perpetuates the view in some workplaces that sexual harassment isn’t a big deal.
  • Customer-centered business approach: In the restaurant industry, there’s a prevailing view that the customer is always right. Therefore, even if a worker raises concerns about sexual harassment perpetrated on them by a customer, supervisors sometimes minimize the issue to protect the business and revenues.
  • The valuation of physical appearance: Many restaurant atmospheres expect their employees to look their best. However, in an environment where physical appearance is rewarded, studies have shown that customers and employers sometimes rely upon the employee’s physical appearance as a justification for sexual harassment.
  • The tipping system: Since many restaurant workers rely on tips to support their income, many of them are simply unwilling to raise the issue of discrimination out of fear that they’ll lose out on the income that they need.

As if harassment itself isn’t enough, all too often employees who report harassing behavior are then subjected to retaliation from their employer. These workers might see their hours cut, their pay diminished, or they might even get fired. If this has happened to you, then you need to consider taking legal action.

What can you do if you’ve been retaliated against?

If you think that your employer has retaliated against you for complaining about sexual harassment, then you need to start gathering the evidence you need to build a legal claim. This might include gathering all written communication that you’ve had with your employer about the issue and talking to those who may have witnessed the harassing and retaliatory behavior to which you’ve been subjected.

We know that the thought of taking legal action against your employer can be daunting. But you need to stand up and have your voice be heard so that you can protect your interests. Additionally, by taking legal action, you might stop egregious behavior that otherwise would go unchecked, resulting in countless other workers being victimized by similar demeaning and demoralizing behavior.