Restaurant work is notorious for sexual harassment though many workers and bosses are unaware of what behaviors violate sexual harassment laws. The majority of restaurants do not have a clear sexual harassment policy posted and more often than not managers do not have disciplinary procedures in place to protect workers from abuse.
The lack of clear sexual harassment polices create an atmosphere of tolerance for behavior that would never be accepted in any other workplace or social situation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has listed restaurants as the top source of sexual harassment claims. They only investigate abuses that are actually reported which means many violations go unreported. Below are some examples of behaviors/actions that constitute sexual harassment:
Verbal or Written:
Comments about clothing, personal behavior, or a person’s body; sexual or sex-based jokes; requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking a person out; sexual innuendos; telling rumors about a person’s personal or sexual life; threatening a person
Assault; impeding or blocking movement; inappropriate touching of a person or a person’s clothing; kissing, hugging, patting, stroking, pinching, rape
Leering, Looking up and down a person’s body; derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature; following a person
Posters, drawings, pictures, screen savers or emails of a sexual nature
The Federal law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended. The law makes certain employers responsible for preventing and stopping sexual harassment that occurs on the job.
Retaliation is Also Against the Law:
Not only is sex harassment against the law, but so is retaliating (taking revenge) against someone for complaining about sexual harassment or for participating in an investigation of sexual harassment. Examples of retaliation include: you complain about sexual harassment and are made to take an unpaid leave of absence, although the harasser continues to work; after you write a letter describing sexual harassment that you witnessed, you are reassigned to a less desirable position in the same or different department.
Employer Responsibilities to Workers:
Title VII makes employers liable to prevent and stop sexual harassment of workers. Under Title VII, covered employers must:
- take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment
- take reasonable care to promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred
There are no specific actions an employer must take to satisfy the requirement that it take reasonable care to prevent or stop sexual harassment. An employer may satisfy the requirement of reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment by having and distributing to workers a policy prohibiting sexual harassment and informing workers how to make a complaint. However, if an employer has a policy but does not enforce it, or if an employer fails to investigate sexual harassment complaints but investigates other complaints of misconduct, then the employer may not be taking reasonable care.
However, before an employer can be legally responsible for taking reasonable care to correct sexual harassment, the employer must be aware that the harassment has occurred.
For this reason, it is important to notify your employer that sexual harassment has occurred.
It is sometimes hard to report harassment because you might feel embarrassed or think that it was your fault even though it is not. Reporting sexual harassment to your employer is important. It may stop the behavior and it makes your employer responsible for stopping the behavior.
Questions and Answers about sexual harassment: WorkplaceFairness.org
The information contained in this section was collected from the Equal Rights Advocate’s and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites: http://www.equalrights.org/publications/kyr/shwork.asp