There have been a number of allegations of sexual harassment associated with restaurants all over the nation during the month of June, including employees who dealt with managers sexually harassing them at work, and complaints to leadership that went completely ignored, as well as employees who were belittled or shut down. Some of these allegations even went beyond fellow coworkers and supervisors making inappropriate comments and as far as physically assaulting employees, and after reporting these incidents, victims were retaliated against by having their work schedules adjusted to less profitable shifts, having their shifts mysteriously cut, and/or being fired without notice. In one particular case, retaliation went far beyond employees being fired and as far as those responsible for the harassment working to destroy businesses run by former employees who exposed it. A number of workers also reported having to deal with customers regularly sexually harassing them, and, upon reporting these issues to leadership, being told by management that they were the problem.
In several of these cases, the restaurants appeared to have dealt with the issue by deciding that the owners who engaged in multiple counts of sexual harassment would either step down and divest ownership or simply no longer be permitted on the premises or be associated with operations. However, this does absolutely nothing to address the damage that has been done to employees who have not only been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, but also to unlawful retaliation for reporting it.
Sexual Harassment Has Long Been Pervasive in The Restaurant Industry
Sadly, this problem is by no means new to the restaurant industry: According to statistics published by Harvard Business Review in 2018, as many as 90 percent of women and 70 of men who worked in the restaurant industry reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment. Countless employees who work in bars in particular report being inappropriately touched, often by intoxicated men, sometimes with an accompanying sexual remark, all while having to maintain a façade of politeness in order to keep their jobs. The restaurant industry in particular has been haunted by sexual harassment due to a number of factors that are particular to the industry, including the following:
- Most management and leadership roles are filled by men
- Most of the typical frontline employees and servers are women (working for male managers)
- Women – and, specifically, minority women – are more likely to be hired for lower-paying serving jobs, where sexual harassment is more likely to be tolerated, than, for
- example, jobs in fine dining
- Targets of harassment are more likely to leave for another job before making a complaint
- Restaurant culture reinforces the concept of the ‘customer is always right,’ no matter what. Studies show that employees constantly face harassment from customers, refrain from reporting it, and management ignores these reports when they are made
How COVID-19 Has Affected the Issue of Sexual Harassment in Bars and Restaurants
Like many other industries at the moment, the restaurant industry appears to be going through monumental changes. Suddenly, the nation has recognized that it is important to speak out about wrongdoing in general, likely not only due to the #MeToo movement, but also due to the pandemic, which is changing the industry, how employees interact with customers, and what they do to address sexual harassment. According to some of the employees impacted by these changes, this is likely in part due to social distancing requirements reminding everyone that employees have a right to personal space.
If You Have Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment, Contact Our Attorneys
There is no excuse for sexual harassment in the workplace; whether the source is a customer, employee, manager, owner, or someone else. This type of treatment takes a toll on workers, who can not only suffer from significant emotional damage as a result, but from lost wages if they are retaliated against. If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, contact our New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys today to find out how we can help ensure that justice is done.