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Restaurant workers likely to encounter sexual harassment

Sexual harassment of restaurant and other food service employees is a common scenario. Reports indicate that up to 70 percent of male workers and 90 percent of female workers in restaurants have experienced some type of sexual harassment from customers, coworkers, supervisors or suppliers. Workers in Florida should be aware of their rights and opportunities for recourse regarding this issue.

Approximately 52 percent of employees in restaurants are female, and two-thirds of them are compensated at least in part with tips. Power imbalances between women and men may lead to more harassment of women in the workplace. Recent research suggests harassment of male workers is on the rise. This area has not been as widely researched, though, so the statistics may be inaccurate. Another factor that may lead to under-reporting of male employee harassment is that it may be perceived as unmanly for male employees to report harassment.

Once a complaint of sexual harassment has been made, one statistic shows that the victim waits almost 10 months on average before any response is made. Employees often move on before the situation is addressed. Harassment by customers is also significant in food service and bars, where the customer is often given tremendous leeway and untoward comments or behaviors might be ignored by management.

Florida companies are under an obligation to provide their workers with a safe environment. Employees who believe they have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances may be entitled to monetary damages or other relief. An attorney with experience in employment law might be able to help in such cases by reviewing the facts and identifying the parties who may have liability. If the situation can't be resolved internally, one option could be the filing of a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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