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Workplace Harassment: 3 Things Owners And Managers Need To Know

Unfortunately, workplace harassment is still a significant, and sometimes frequent, occurrence in the workplace.

A 2014 report by RocUnited, an organization that seeks to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce, found that both men and women experience high rates of harassment while on the clock. For example, two-thirds of females and half of males surveyed reported incidences of sexual harassment directed at them from either a restaurant owner, manager, or supervisor.

Here are some tips to prevent harassment in your restaurant.

Types of harassment

When harassment is mentioned, many people jump immediately to sexual harassment. However, there are actually several different ways that harassment can transpire.

A more complete definition of workplace harassment is unwanted verbal or physical behavior regarding:

  • Gender Identity
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Skin Color
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Physical or Mental Disability
  • Age

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

The EEOC further says that harassment becomes unlawful where:

  1. Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment; or
  2. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.



Preventing workplace harassment can be challenging, but it’s imperative that management leads by example. Your employees need to know that their best interests are a priority and that you’re taking the necessary steps to protect them. You need to be very clear that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.  


Restaurants should always have a written policy regarding harassment. The policy should outline examples of what harassment may look or feel like as well as explain how employees can file a formal complaint. A summary of the grievance process should also be included. Each employee should sign this policy upon hire and each year of employment thereafter.


Providing anti-harassment training to all employees — including management — is another way to educate your team about the dangers and repercussions of participating in harassment in the workplace.


Finally, strive to create a culture in which employees feel that they can communicate their concerns openly and honestly. You want your team to be able to come to you if they feel they’re being harassed.


Responding to a claim

When a team member reports an incident of harassment, it’s paramount that immediate and swift action is taken. Otherwise, employees will likely become resentful, angry, and disengaged if their reports aren’t taken seriously.


Follow the grievance process outlined in the workplace harassment policy and document, document, document! If an employee is reprimanded or terminated for inappropriate behavior, you need to establish a paper trail to protect yourself against possible lawsuits and litigation.
Do you have a formal workplace harassment policy? How do you respond to harassment claims in your restaurant? Please tell us in the comments below!


Carrie Luxem is the founder and President of Restaurant HR Group, a full-service HR group based in Chicago, IL. Carrie will be sharing her wisdom from over 15 years in restaurant human resources through guest-posts on the Homebase blog.

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