Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Top causes of harassment in the restaurant industry

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | Discrimination

Workplace harassment and discrimination is more common than most people realize. And no industry is immune from these unfair and illegal practices. In fact, those who work in the restaurant sector are exposed to excessively high rates of harassment. Let’s take a look at the statistics.

How pervasive is harassment in the restaurant industry?

It’s extremely pervasive. One study found that 90% of women who work in the restaurant industry reported being subjected to some form of sexual harassment, which includes unwanted sexual advancements, verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature, and requests for sexual acts. Even 70% of men reported being subjected to sexual harassment at their place of work in the restaurant sector. This behavior can leave workers embarrassed, afraid, and retaliated against when they file a complaint.

Why is harassment so common in the restaurant industry?

There are several contributing factors. Let’s look at some of them:

  • High turnover: Some studies estimate that the restaurant industry sees a 70% turnover rate each year. As a result, those who are subjected to harassment oftentimes end up leaving the profession before filing a complaint, meaning that those who engage in harassing behaviors don’t see any repercussions for their actions. This creates an environment and workplace culture where harassment is tolerated.
  • Power dynamics: Most restaurant workers are in lower paying positions and are oftentimes unfairly seen as being in an inferior position by their supervisors. As a result, workers who are subjected to harassment tend to be afraid to report harassing behavior because of the power that their supervisor and the harasser have over them.
  • Customer service mentality: While businesses have to provide adequate customer service to be successful, sometimes restaurants take this mentality too far. As a result, they may be hesitant or even outright refuse to confront customers who harass employees. This makes the employer complicit in the harassment, and it leaves workers at risk of being harmed not only by the harassing behavior itself, but also by any retaliation that may come down from the employer when the matter is pressed.
  • Pay structure: Most restaurant staff rely on tips to make up a significant portion of their income. As a result, many servers who are harassed are hesitant to report the behavior because it could directly impact their income.
  • The use of appearance as a selling tactic: Some restaurants rely on their employees’ physical appearance as a way to attract customers and drive sales. But this approach puts employees in the crosshairs of harassment. It also makes management hesitant to address harassing behaviors, which can foster a culture where harassment is both expected and tolerated.

As you can see, there are a lot of contributing factors to harassment in the restaurant work environment. Although the problem may be prevalent, you don’t have to let it derail your career, your mental health, your physical safety, and your financial stability. Instead, you can choose to take action to protect your interests and deter your employer from acting in harmful ways towards other workers.

Be ready to aggressively advocate to hold your employer accountable

Going up against your employer can be frightening, but it’s oftentimes necessary to achieve a fair outcome. The good news is that you don’t have to encounter your employer in the legal arena on your own. Employment law professionals are ready to help you build your legal arguments so that you can present your case as persuasively as possible in court. However, the onus is on you to seek out the support that you need so that you can aggressively fight for a just outcome.