“Sexual Harassment” and your restaurant’s name are two phrases that you never want to see anywhere together. In this social media age, news like that can spread faster than your PR person can combat it. So it’s important to take steps to help prevent and resolve harassment situations in your restaurant before it gets out of hand and costs you significant amounts of money and your reputation.
Looking At The Stats
In 1999, when the founder of the National Restaurant Association, and staunch advocate of harassment reform, was accused of sexual harassment, it shined a spotlight on the very issue he was fighting to combat. It may just have been a case of someone in power thinking the rules didn’t apply to them, but it did prompt several studies into the matter.
- Two-thirds of women and over half of male workers surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment from management;
- Both women (80%) and men (70%) experienced some form of sexual harassment from co-workers while the same amount of women and 55% of men experienced harassment from customers;
- Harassment is routine as 66% of women said they experienced sexual harassment from management at least on a monthly basis and 52% on at least a weekly basis.
- In the states where the wage floor is just $2.13, women are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment. They reported being three times as likely to be told to change the way they looked or to wear sexier or more revealing clothes by management.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United http://rocunited.org/new-report-the-glass-floor-sexual-harassment-in-the-restaurant-industry
Teo Reyes, the National Research Director at ROC, said that they approached this study differently. Instead of just asking “Hey, have you experienced sexual harassment?” they asked about behaviors they experienced. If they responded that these behaviors made them uncomfortable or upset, then that is textbook harassment.
Why Are Restaurants Frequent Victims
If you own, manage, or work in a restaurant, then you know that restaurants are a hotbed of harassment claims. The very purpose of a restaurant is to provide patrons with a place to relax and unwind. Restaurants are places to enjoy entertainment, romantic dinners, low lighting, fine wine, an evening out with the boys or girls, and in general a respite from the day to day.
The workers are put into fast-paced, stressful environments. On top of that, in the greater Chattanooga area, many restaurant owners often have to combat language and cultural differences as well. Seemingly innocent action or comments can quickly escalate into full-blown harassment claims with both parties confused as the to the cause.
The laid back environment the customers experience can also encourage employees, managers, and owners to share comments, jokes, or stories that can quickly cross that fine line between innocence and being illegal.
What Can Restaurant Owners DO TO Combat It
It’s important that you be proactive instead of just reacting to claims.
- Implement a harassment policy that is clearly defined in your employee handbook.
- Make sure the policy includes instructions for reporting a claim of harassment.
- Your policy should also include exactly how it will be enforced and the rammifications an offender could expect to receive.
- Review this policy clearly as part of the new employee orientation.
- Provide harassment training for your managers that includes how to identify, respond to, and prevent harassment.
- Consider putting all workers on a minimum wage instead of being tipped employees. The studies have shown that tipped workers tend to interact with customers differently when their wages come solely from tips and those interacts lead to more claims.
- Most claims came from co-workers as opposed to managers. So it’s important to educate your entire staff on your harassment policies, and what constitutes harassment, instead of just focusing your training solely on the managers.
- Make to evenly, and frequently, assess and enforce your policies. A frequent compliant is that the policy exists and isn’t enforced. Harassing comments are just deemed to be “kitchen talk” and everyone just thinks it’s acceptable.
- Consider implementing an anonymous reporting hotline. Many workers feel that they are replaceable in this industry and don’t want to make waves for fear that they will loose their jobs. This hotline makes it easier for them to report issues before they go to court so you can address them.