Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry
Last year, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United released a report stating that 80% of tipped female workers in the restaurant industry have been sexually harassed by their coworkers or customers. Moreover, 70% of male workers reported sexual harassment from coworkers, while 55% of male workers reported customer harassment. In fact, 37% of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims are brought by restaurant workers. At Phillips & Associates, our sexual harassment lawyers represent employees throughout New York City in pursuing damages for the harm that they have suffered.Holding an Employer in the Restaurant Industry Accountable
Sexual harassment is a type of gender discrimination that includes a wide variety of unwelcome sexual behavior, including requests for sexual favors, jokes, or sexual comments. The person committing the harassment may be a supervisor, coworker, or someone not even an employee, but in most cases, the harasser has power or authority over the victim.
For example, restaurant servers who rely heavily on tips are more likely to suffer from sexual harassment and not complain because the harasser is in a position to affect the server's ability to make a living. When sexual harassment is rejected or called out, the server may be victimized through retaliation, which is also illegal. In an industry in which "the customer is always right," the threat of retaliation can be overwhelming for the server.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the state Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law prohibit sexual harassment and retaliation. Employees victimized by sexual harassment can file a federal claim with the EEOC. Generally, sexual harassment is divided into "quid pro quo" harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when you feel pressured to cooperate with a sexual advance because employment decisions, such as promotions or terminations, depend on your submission. For example, if your manager says that you have to put up with unwanted sexual touching from restaurant patrons if you want a raise, this could be quid pro quo sexual harassment.
A hostile work environment typically arises when you receive unwanted verbal or physical conduct that interferes with your ability to do your job, whether that is serving or cooking. For example, if you are an assistant and the cook you work for is constantly making sexual comments or gestures that keep you from effectively cooking or doing other work tasks, this may be a hostile work environment. The test for a hostile work environment under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights law is whether the offensive language or gestures are severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of your employment from the perspective of another person of your gender. However, the New York City Human Rights Law, provides greater protection for employees than its state or federal counterparts. An employee only needs to prove that they were treated "less well than other employees… at least in part for a discriminatory reason."
In most cases, a single offhand comment such as "women can't cook" by a male chef would not be enough to count as a hostile work environment. However, multiple comments of this nature or sexual jokes or touching that most people of the same sex as the victim would find offensive, or a request for a sexual favor, could result in a hostile work environment.Discuss Your Sexual Harassment Claim with a New York City Lawyer
Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is widespread and inexcusable. If you were subject to harassment, you may be entitled to damages. To protect your rights after improper conduct in a New York City workplace, contact the gender discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. You can call us at (212) 248-7431 or complete our online form to set up a free appointment. We serve employees across the five boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
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