Harassment & Discrimination in the Restaurant, Bar, Food & Beverage Industry
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency which enforces federal laws against employment discrimination. In addition to enforcing Title VII (which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex – including sexual harassment or pregnancy – or national origin), it protects employees who complain about such offenses from being retaliated against.
The EEOC also enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and, sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. (www.eeoc.gov).
According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the restaurant industry is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims. It accounts for more than one-third of all sexual harassment claims from women.
Sexual harassment (unwelcomed sexual advances) is one form of discrimination which falls under Title VII and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is reported that the restaurant industry employs nearly 14 million workers and is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is highly prevalent throughout the industry – affecting mainly women restaurant workers, but impacts men as well. Some strongly believe that the entire system of allowing employers to pay a sub-minimum wage to tipped workers and forcing them to depend on customer tips creates an environment where workers — particularly women — are sexually discriminated against and harassed by customers and management, alike — even sometimes by fellow workers.
State and Federal Laws:
Under many state and federal laws, certain employers are required to establish and maintain anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to protect their employees. However, regardless of whether it is required by law, having such policies is a good idea and is standard in the hospitality industry. By doing so, employers send a message to all employees that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Additionally, having such policies can help provide a defense for the restaurant owner/operator if such a lawsuit should arise.
Written Restaurant & Bar Policies:
A written unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policy is critical to protect your business against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. The policy should include a procedure for reporting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. The policy should be included in your employee handbook. You should also have each new employee sign a separate policy, acknowledging that the employee has reviewed and understood the policy. You should have an experienced restaurant attorney review your policy prior to distributing it to employees.
Training of Restaurant Policies:
However, putting it down on paper is only the first step. Employers must also insure that these policies are followed, enforced, trained, and discussed on an ongoing basis.
Call an Experienced Restaurant Consultant
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