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Restaurants and retail: Where workplace discrimination thrives

Discrimination can take many forms, from racial to sexual to age-based. When people think of discrimination in the workplace, which industries come to mind? Of course, no occupations are exempt, but some are guiltier than others.

Highly publicized cases can make it seem like most discrimination and harassment incidents occur in filmmaking, technology and other sectors with a glamorized reputation. But the truth is that the worst culprits are restaurant and retail businesses, according to research from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) that was reported by Fortune.

Sexual harassment

Workers in food services may experience the highest rates of sexual harassment, which is related to sex discrimination, with retail in second place. The unwanted behavior can come from both other employees and customers.

Unfortunately, notifying supervisors may lead to employer retaliation against victims, such as wrongfully termination. This response is not only illegal but also perpetuates the problem of sexual harassment.

Racial inequality

When it comes to racial discrimination, the issue is not a lack of diversity in the workplace. On the contrary, there are high numbers of minority employees in the food service and retail industries.

However, that level of diversity is not present in management positions, with employees of color more often working in the back of the establishment than the front, according to the ROC study. They may also not receive enough hours even if they are willing to work them.

Wage gap

Both industries underutilize the skills and overlook the qualifications of women and racial minorities, with nonwhite women faring the worst. Workers in these demographics fill the lowest-paying positions, according to a publication by Demos, and receive less pay for them than their male and/or white counterparts even when education and proficiency are the same. In addition, the lack of hours, promotions and pay raises means higher rates of poverty.

What to do

This information is vital for those who work in the restaurant or retail industries, so they can know what discrimination to look for and how to recognize it. These practices may be common, but that does mean they are acceptable or legal. Employees can take action against an employer who mistreats them.

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