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Why is harassment rampant in the restaurant industry?

Since the #MeToo movement began two years ago, our nation has spent considerably more time analyzing the problems with various industries to determine ways to prevent employee mistreatment. Even though California residents were getting used to seeing actors and producers make the news for their allegations, they were also finding out how big of an issue it was for other businesses.

According to the EEOC, over 14 percent of the sexual harassment claims filed with them within the last decade came from the service industry. Another study from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Forward Together indicates that 79 percent of women and 71 percent of men who work in restaurants experience sexual harassment in some form. Now that these problems that have plagued the restaurant industry for decades are coming to light, it is important to understand what often leads to these horrifying statistics.

A lack of HR departments

In a major company, whenever you have a complaint about your coworkers or managers, you submit a complaint to the human resources (HR) department in hopes of changing your work environment. Unless you’re working at a popular chain restaurant, there’s a high chance that your workplace doesn’t have one of these. Local restaurants have much smaller staffs than other companies and say it would be too costly to create an HR department. This means that the only person you could report to would be your manager, but there are plenty of problems that come with that.

An unfair power dynamic

Restaurant employers have a lot more say in what happens to a worker in the near future than other industries. They often work closer with them, determine their pay and decide what hours they will work in the upcoming weeks. This makes workers afraid to report any sexual harassment at work to them because they are afraid of potential retaliation. Additionally, many workers rely on tips from customers and do not report any sexual harassment incidents about them because they believe their managers have a “customer is always right” mentality.

High turnover rates

The restaurant industry has a 70 percent annual turnover rate, which is one of the highest in the nation. Even though it should motivate restaurants to improve their work ethics, it tends to have the opposite effect for some. Since these employers are aware that mistreated workers are more likely to leave without filing a complaint, they think they can continue this poor behavior without suffering any major consequences.

Restaurant employees in California need to know that reporting to HR or a manger aren’t their only options in dealing with harassment. They should consult with a local employment law attorney to see how they can get compensated for any pain that they endured from their managers, coworkers or customers.

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