Recently, NJ Advance Media collected and published the stories of several women who were victims of sexual harassment at work. The restaurant industry tied corporate jobs for second place for responses when readers were invited to share their complaints. Many of the women have filed lawsuits against their harassers, who were, at times, also their managers.
An Industry Rife with Risk Factors
The restaurant industry is fraught with many different factors that come together to make it a hotbed for sexual harassment and abuse. Incidents were reported by women working at five-star establishments, as well as those employed at diners and coffee shops. A major problem is the power that managers, supervisors, chefs, and even customers can exert over a server’s earning ability.
The federal minimum wage for servers and hosts is $2.13 per hour, which makes them incredibly dependent on tips to earn a living. For example, a cook can delay a server’s meals on a whim if she has refused his advances. A supervisor can control who works the best shifts and how many hours a server receives each week.
Close quarters and isolated stock rooms, warehouses, and walk-in refrigerators add to the conditions that breed problems, as does the presence of alcohol and working late nights. Additionally, many of the women who submitted complaints were under the age of 18 when the incidents occurred, making them vulnerable targets. Some of them were told they should show more cleavage to earn better tips. Not only must they tolerate harassment, the industry demands that they encourage it.
A Culture of Bullying
As various television shows have demonstrated, the restaurant industry cultivates star personas and strong hierarchies, giving the chef and his immediate underlings, often all men, power at the top. Their bullying and abusive behavior is accepted as normal by the rest of the staff.
Servers, on the other hand, are mostly female, often relatively uneducated, and easily replaceable. Most sexual harassment in the restaurant industry goes unreported out of fear of retaliation – these workers cannot afford to lose the job that pays their rent or buys food for their children. Because they may not have the time or energy to file a complaint, they tolerate the harassment and abuse. Unfortunately, this learned tolerance often follows them throughout their careers.
Red Bank Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Advocate for Workers’ Rights to a Safe Workplace
No one should feel harassed or unsafe at their place of work. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment, contact McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. to speak with a Red Bank sexual harassment lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights. We will fight to obtain the justice and compensation you deserve. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.