It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the restaurant industry sees more sexual harassment claims than any other employment sector in the U.S. The harassment doesn’t always come from customers.
Although it’s impossible to know the exact numbers, some estimates suggest that at least 90% of women working in this industry have been sexually harassed by customers, managers, colleagues or vendors. Those same estimates indicate that 70% of male restaurant employees have been sexual harassment victims.
This harassment doesn’t just occur in upscale restaurants where owners may let wealthy, famous or powerful customers get away with abusing employees because of the money they bring in or because liquor flows freely. Fast-food employees have become increasingly vocal about the harassment they’ve received in recent years.
Why is sexual harassment so common at restaurants?
What makes sexual harassment of employees so prevalent in the restaurant industry? There are various reasons why that’s the case, including:
High employee turnover: The industry has a turnover rate of 70% a year. Sexual harassment may likely motivate lead at least some restaurant workers to leave their roles. A worker may do so without addressing the harassment that they endured, though.
Power and gender imbalance: Most people in restaurant management positions are men, while most of their subordinates are women. The majority of restaurant employees are tipped workers, and the food prices where they work aren’t very high. This affects how much workers generate in tips, often leaving them earning very little. Their pay rate disadvantages them if they’re experiencing harassment – especially if they rely on their job to support their family.
Reliance on customer tips: In addition to some restaurant managers’ unwillingness to make a customer unhappy, many restaurant workers rely on customers’ tips for a good deal of their income. Workers may put up with more than they’re comfortable with because a customer has financial power over them.
California has some of the strongest laws in the country when it comes to workplace sexual harassment, abuse and assault. They’ve only grown stronger in the past few years by the #MeToo movement. However, filing a sexual harassment claim can still be a daunting process. It’s wise to understand the law and your rights and protections under the law.