We Protect Workers

Why sexual harassment is so prevalent in restaurants

If you earn your income working in a San Diego-area restaurant, bar or food service establishment, it may not surprise you to know that these work environments are often hotbeds for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is so common in restaurants and other food service businesses, in fact, that USA Today reports that more sexual harassment claims come from the hospitality sector than any other industry.

With more than 14 percent of all sexual harassment claims filed within a recent 10-year period coming from the restaurant industry, you may wonder exactly what it is about the work environment that makes it such a breeding ground for this type of behavior. Some of the problem is likely due to these facts:

Restaurant staff tend to be young

For many people, their first foray into the working world involves working in a restaurant or food service business. When workers are inexperienced, however, they are less likely to understand what is in a work environment. Additionally, and particularly in fast food and fast-casual restaurant businesses, many managers are also young, and they may not know enough about harassment laws to understand when common teasing or flirting crosses the line.

It is a male-dominated industry

While men are certainly not the only ones working in restaurants, statistically, men are more likely than women to hold chef and managerial roles and other positions of power in restaurants. In some cases, those with powerful roles also have their names on the door (as is sometimes the case when a famous chef heads up an eatery). Servers, bussers and kitchen workers with lesser roles within the establishment may be fearful of going toe to toe with a restaurant’s obvious leader and primary draw for fear they will lose their jobs.

It is a fast-paced field

Many restaurant environments are busy and hectic, and many restaurant workers must share tight quarters in kitchens, prep areas and what have you. When everyone is rushing around trying to get a job done, and particularly when they are doing so within limited space, unwanted touching or rubbing may occur, whether intentional or not.

Many restaurant workers fear speaking up about sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs, leading them to accept behavior that makes them uneasy.