Ninety percent. That’s how many women in the restaurant industry report being sexually harassed on the job. More women from the restaurant industry file sexual harassment reports with the EEOC than from any other single industry. The culture in many restaurants, especially those that serve alcohol, seems to brew improper behavior. Restaurant employees – both women and men – report being harassed by managers, peers, and customers.

It’s hard to combat a culture of harassment, but it can be done. It starts with you, the restaurant manager. Your responsibilities are three-fold: model, train, and act. Model good behavior yourself. Train your employees on what harassment looks like. And when you receive a harassment report, act on it immediately.

A Restaurant Manager’s Role in Harassment Reporting

Your job keeps you running on every shift, and you can’t possibly know everything that happens in your restaurant. As a manager, though, what you don’t know can hurt you. This is particularly true when it comes to harassment in the workplace. If an employee is being harassed on your watch, you could be held liable for not stopping it. How you handle a harassment report can be the difference between a single event becoming a full-blown catastrophe. Follow these guidelines when an employee comes to you with a harassment report:

  • Own it immediately. It is your obligation to investigate any harassment report that comes to you. Once someone reports harassment to you, whether they were a victim or a witness, you must take ownership of the process from that point forward.
  • Be impartial. Restaurant teams and their loyal customers are like families. Often, learning about a harassment incident can be shocking, especially if you know the alleged harasser. You must keep an open mind. Carefully listen to the employee making the harassment report. Show empathy and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.
  • Ask for details. A harassment report is sensitive, for sure, but the more you understand, the more effective your investigation will be. Stay focused and take notes. If it would be more comfortable for the employee, ask them to write down the specifics of what happened.
  • Reiterate your company’s policy against retaliation. It is against federal law for a company to retaliate against an employee who makes a good faith harassment report. As part of your restaurant’s harassment training, and when you take a report, you must let employees know that they will not be retaliated against by the company for reporting harassment.
  • Know and follow your restaurant’s policies. Every restaurant should have specific policies in place for handling a harassment report. In general, you should immediately inform your supervisor and document the complaint in writing.

All employees are entitled to a comfortable and hostile-free work environment. How you handle a harassment report is critical to both preventing harassment and stopping it immediately if does occurs.

Train Employees to Report Harassment

Online harassment training helps employees and managers learn how to recognize and report harassment. Once your entire staff is properly trained, it’s important to regularly follow up that initial training with a refresher course. Click here for more information.