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How can we eradicate sexual harassment from restaurants?

The problem of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is pervasive. In fact, many restaurant workers – including cooks, servers and hosts – have wrongly come to the decision to simply accept that being the victim of a constant barrage of insulting comments and requests for sexual favors is part of the job.

Sexual harassment is not a part of the job. In fact, restaurant workers who are suffering from sexual harassment can take immediate action to put a stop to it by expressing their legal rights, demanding that it stop, or – as a last resort – filing a legal action through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Aside from employees taking a stand for the right to a harassment-free workplace, here are a few actions that restaurant owners and managers can do to prevent on-the-job sexual harassment:

Create and enforce an anti-sexual harassment policy: Every restaurant needs to have an anti-sexual harassment policy. This policy should define what sexual harassment is, with examples, and declare that the behavior is prohibited. The policy should also offer a procedure by which employees can report violations of the sexual harassment policy. Employees should have an alternative person to whom they can report a sexual harassment violation if the designated person ends up being the sexual harasser.

Conduct secret audits: Larger restaurant chains should not rely on local managers alone to help curb sexual harassment instances, as the managers themselves could be to blame for perpetuating toxic workplace cultures. To keep tabs on management, corporate leaders should find a way to send auditors to restaurant sites to interview employees in private and give them an opportunity to report abuses and instances of sexual harassment in a confidential way.

Conduct sexual harassment training: Managers should be required to complete special sexual harassment training so that they can better police their workplaces and so that they can avoid becoming sexual harassers themselves. Employees should also receive this kind of training.

Unfortunately, it's likely that sexual harassment will continue to be a problem even when restaurants complete their due diligence with regard to preventing and disciplining this kind of behavior. If you have been hurt because of sexual harassment -- psychologically, economically or professionally -- stand up for your legal rights now.

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