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What You Should Know About Sexual Harassment in the Food Industry

Working in the food industry can be tough. Restaurants often include a fast-paced environment, and you must not only learn to multi-task several tables at once but also deal with people who are difficult to work with. For you and many other California restaurant employees, sexual harassment may be one more unpleasant thing you face each day on the job.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment is more common in the restaurant industry than many people think. A recent poll by the Hart Research Association showed that 40 percent of females in the industry reported encountering sexual harassment at least once at work. Additional studies revealed 90 percent of restaurant industry employees, both male and female, said it had happened to them. You should also know that incidents of workplace-related sexual harassment may be higher than the official numbers since many victims are too afraid or ashamed to report it or may not recognize the incidents as harassment.

Here is what you need to know about sexual harassment as a restaurant employee:

  • Your supervisor or co-workers may make you feel as if treating you as an “object” is a normal or necessary part of the job, and that you must encourage unwanted behavior to bring in repeat customers or good tips.
  • In addition to overly flirtatious customers bothering you, you might face sexual harassment by a co-worker or manager.
  • Sexual harassment is not mutual flirting. It must be a form of unwanted verbal, emotional or physical behavior of a sexual nature that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened.
  • You may be afraid that if you object to the behavior, you could face disciplinary action or lose your job.

You have the right to fair treatment on the job and to not feel as if you must put up with upsetting behavior. The important thing to realize is that sexual harassment is illegal, and you should not have to suffer negative consequences for refusing unwanted behavior or reporting it.

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