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Why is workplace sexual harassment so pervasive in restaurants?

If you make a living working as a server, host, cook or another role in a restaurant or food service business, statistics suggest that you may have experienced sexual harassment while on the job. According to USA Today, the sexual harassment problem is so prevalent in the industry that more sexual harassment claims arise from it than any other industry.

In fact, nearly 15 percent of all American sexual harassment claims filed between 2005 and 2015 stemmed from within the food service industry. While many such claims came from fine-dining environments, workers in fast food and more casual restaurant and food service settings were not immune from such claims, either. About 40 percent of all women working in fast food establishments reported receiving unwanted sexual advances at some point while on the clock. So, why are restaurants and food service establishments such hotbeds for sexual harassment?

A “boys club” atmosphere

Nowadays, men sit at the helm of the majority of high-end restaurants, and men also tend to dominate chain and fast food restaurant management roles. Men in positions of power can sometimes subject workers to sexual harassment with little recourse. In some cases, this might happen because the man’s name is on the door, meaning making such actions public could hurt business considerably. In other cases, it might occur because it may be easier for an employer to part ways with, say, a server who complains about the actions of a chef as opposed to parting ways with the chef himself.

Young staff

The fact that so many restaurant and food service workers are young and inexperienced may factor into the prevalence of sexual harassment in such environments.

Some younger workers are in their first jobs, and they may not understand what is and is not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Such issues may compound in fast food environments, where managers and upper-level employees are often only a few years, if at all, older than their subordinates. In such cases, the managers themselves may have little knowledge about how to prevent sexual harassment, meaning they are not passing along necessary information about it to their workers.

These are just two of many reasons sexual harassment is rampant in the restaurant industry. If you are a victim of workplace harassment, remember: You do not have to suffer in silence.

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