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Sexual harassment in the hospitality industry

As awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace grows, bars in Florida and around the country may also need to examine their practices and make sure they are protecting employees and customers. A July conference in New Orleans included a session on dealing with sexual harassment and violence in the hospitality industry. One of the key points from the panel was that focusing on the role of alcohol was a distraction. Furthermore, hospitality does not mean ignoring bad behavior from customers.

There are several strategies people in the hospitality industry can use to deal with problem customers. One is simply cutting them off. Some bars have specific strategies in place to help customers who are feeling uncomfortable. For example, ordering a certain type of drink can be a sign that the person needs assistance. Others train bartenders to pay closer attention to conversation as well as nonverbal cues to notice when someone may need help. One professional says that bartenders often assume that harassment does not happen in their bars until this type of training make it more apparent.

In one California restaurant, servers use a system of three flags to alert about an incident and its severity. In New York, a bill has been proposed requiring a sign about harassment and training for employees. Ultimately, different solutions will work for different types of venues.

People who are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace may want to talk to an attorney about what steps they should take. Sexual harassment may involve asking for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or other benefits, but it also may take more subtle forms. An environment in which sexually suggestive comments are repeatedly made or sexual imagery is used could also constitute harassment.

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