Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue in many California work settings, and female restaurant servers often face disproportionately high rates of such misconduct.
A variety of factors make sexual harassment more common in hospitality settings than in many other industries. When female servers face sexual harassment on the job, it may do more than just make the workday difficult or intolerable. It may also have lasting emotional and psychological effects.
The restaurant industry is customer-focused. Thus, servers must remain friendly, accommodating and attentive to customers’ needs. However, some customers exploit this dynamic, using it as an opportunity to engage in inappropriate behavior or make unwelcome advances towards waitstaff.
Significant power imbalances often exist between servers and their supervisors or managers. This power dynamic makes it difficult for servers to report instances of harassment, fearing retaliation or job loss. This fear of consequences often perpetuates a culture of silence and allows harassment to persist.
Servers rely heavily on tips for their income, and this reliance on customer gratuities creates vulnerabilities. Some customers may exploit the tipping system to engage in harassment, knowing that servers may be hesitant to confront them for fear of jeopardizing their income.
In the restaurant industry, males tend to dominate leadership roles. The lack of female representation at higher levels can contribute to an environment where harassment persists. Female servers may feel that their concerns or complaints will fall on deaf ears.
High turnover rates
Restaurants have high turnover rates, making it challenging to address long-term issues like harassment. Servers may choose to leave their jobs rather than endure ongoing harassment, resulting in the problem persisting and affecting new employees.
NPR reports that more than 70% of female servers in America have faced work-related sexual harassment. To address this issue effectively, restaurants must prioritize training, establish clear reporting mechanisms and create a culture that does not tolerate harassment.