You deserve to be safe in your place of work. While this certainly includes your physical safety, it also includes protection from discrimination and harassment. Yet, egregious workplace behavior like sexual harassment occurs all the time, which may leave you feeling embarrassed, threatened, and fearful of reporting it if you’ve been subjected to harassment. Even if you are brave enough to report the harassment to your employer, you might find yourself the subject of illegal retaliation, which can directly impact your income and your career.
Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry
Although sexual harassment occurs in every profession, some occupations are much more susceptible to it than others. Restaurant workers, for example, tend be subjected to extremely high rates of sexual harassment. In fact, a study last year found that as many as 70% of women who work in restaurants reported having been sexually harassed. Half of these workers reported being sexually harassed on a weekly basis. This means that thousands of restaurant workers are harassed each week, which is completely unacceptable.
Why is sexual harassment so high among restaurant workers?
This is a good question, and one that researchers have tried to get to the bottom of. Their findings have shown that there are many factors contributing to sexual harassment in these establishments, including each of the following:
- Reliance on tips: A lot of restaurant workers rely on tips to make up a significant portion of their income. This means that they feel compelled to do what they can to make their customers happy, even if that means putting up with harassing behavior.
- A mentality that the customer is always right: Making matters worse is the fact that managers at these restaurants are driven to maximize profits, typically by increasing the enjoyableness of the dining experience. Confronting a customer about harassing behavior can drive some customers away, which means that managers are actually disincentivized to protect their workers from sexual harassment.
- A fear of retaliation: A lot of restaurant workers are afraid of losing their job, which means that they may be worried about the ramifications of reporting sexual harassment, whether perpetrated upon them by a customer, a co-worker, or a supervisor.
What you can do if you’ve been sexually harassed
If you’ve been sexually harassed and it has negatively impacted your job and caused you harm, then you may be justified in taking legal action. However, before you can successfully pursue one of these claims, you need to make sure that you have strong evidence on your side.
To gather this evidence, think about writing down every instance of sexual harassment that you’ve been subjected to, noting the time, who was involved, and what the harassment entailed. Also make sure that you keep all communications between you and your supervisor and you and the human resources department. It’ll also be helpful for you to speak to witnesses who may be able to back up your story of harassing behavior and retaliation.
Don’t be afraid to stand up to your employer
We know that it can be scary to make a claim against your employer. But doing so very well might be the best way to have your voice heard and to protect your interests.