Unfortunately, sexual harassment is prevalent in the restaurant and hospitality industry. According to a survey by One Fair Wage, approximately 70% of restaurant workers have reported at least one incident of sexual-harassment in the workplace. According to the site, some reported examples of sexual harassment at work include:
- Sexually hostile behavior (e.g. offensive or degrading sexual remarks, crude gestures, sending sexual photos or text messages)
- Sexual assault (e.g. exposure of intimate body parts, attempted sexual activity without consent, sexual activity without consent)
- Intrusive sexual attention (e.g. repeatedly requesting dates after being told ‘no,’ unwanted touching)
- Sexual coercion (e.g. threatening to retaliate against worker if unwilling to engage in sexual activity, offering incentives to engage in sexual activity)
What a restaurant owner can do
As a restaurant owner, it is your job to take all complaints of sexual harassment seriously. When a worker feels that a situation has not been properly handled by an employer, they my file a lawsuit against the employer for providing a hostile work environment or retaliation. Here are some steps restaurants can take to protect their businesses from these lawsuits.
- Document and investigate all claims of sexual harassment – Many employers make the mistake of trying to sweep sexual harassment claims under the rug instead of addressing them head-on. It is important to do a full investigation to gather all the facts while maintaining as much confidentiality for the parties involved. Documenting every step of the process from the initial complaint to any disciplinary action taken.
- Implement and adhere to sexual harassment policy – Restaurants should make sure they have a policy in writing relating to the handling of sexual harassment claims in the workplace. Workers and supervisors should be aware of the policy and it should be adhered to at all times.
- Do not retaliate against alleged victim – Employers who take negative action against the accuser (e.g. limiting their hours, terminating their employment, demoting them) may find themselves on the wrong end of a retaliation lawsuit. It is important that employees are able to come forward with their stories without fear of the consequences. If the investigation reveals that the accuser’s claims were false, action may be taken in accordance with company policy, but it must be properly documented.
If you have received a complaint from an employee, an employment law attorney can be immensely helpful in handling what comes next. Sexual harassment lawsuits can destroy a Newport Beach business, so it is important that these matters are handled properly.