For many young people across California and the nation, a restaurant or food service job is their first introduction into the working world. Regrettably, however, restaurants and hospitality businesses are often rife with sexual innuendo, commentary and unsolicited touching, and in some cases, the behavior of coworkers and supervisors crosses the line and becomes sexual harassment.
While the sexual harassment problem is pervasive across many industries, USA Today reports that the problem is more prolific in restaurants and food service than within any other industry, and there are several reasons this is the case. As mentioned, part of the problem likely stems from the fact that many workers in this sector are young and inexperienced. When they lack experience, restaurant workers may fail to recognize when their actions or behaviors cross the line.
Additionally, many people who hold positions of power in restaurants are also young and inexperienced, and they may not understand what constitutes sexual harassment or how to train their employees to avoid behaving inappropriately. Many restaurant environments are also male-dominated, with men holding chef roles and other positions of power at higher rates than women.
Many restaurant workers also have little choice other than to work with others in extremely close quarters, and when too many people must share the same small space, unwanted or unsolicited touching and rubbing can occur. The high-pressure, somewhat hedonistic nature of the job can also contribute to the problem.
While this information about the prevalence of sexual harassment in restaurants is informative, it does not constitute legal advice.