If you have ever spent time working in a restaurant or food service setting, you may know firsthand how common sexual harassment can be in such environments. While employees across virtually all sectors are at risk of workplace sexual harassment, there are certain factors at play in many restaurants that make these settings hotbeds for harassing behavior.
According to USA Today, food service and hospitality workers logged more sexual harassment claims between 2005 and 2015 than any other industry, accounting for more than 14 percent of all complaints. Why is this number so high?
A male-dominated industry
Men hold the majority of managerial and chef roles in restaurants nowadays, and this can create a type of culture when female subordinates are fearful of speaking up about harassment, which can lead to more of it. In some cases, female victims avoid speaking up about harassment because a particular chef or superior has a well-known name, and the female feels the restaurant would be more likely to part ways with her than its big star.
A youthful workforce
The fact that many restaurant and food service workers are young is another likely contributor to the high number of sexual harassment claims logged by restaurant workers. In many fast food and fast-casual establishments, managers are also often young, and inexperience can lead to harassment claims if workers are unclear about what does and does not constitute acceptable workplace behavior.
Small, busy workspaces
If you have ever worked in or visited a restaurant during the Saturday dinner rush, you may have seen servers dashing around corners, squeezing past one another or cramming together to make drinks for diners. Kitchens and restaurants, in general, are often small, compact spaces, and when restaurant workers work in especially close quarters, rubbing and touching may occur, which, in some cases, may be intentional.
If you work in a restaurant or food service role and are a victim of sexual harassment, speak up. Do not let your possible lack of experience or concerns about losing your job prevent you from standing up for your rights.