The Importance of a Sexual Harassment Policy in the Restaurant Workplace

Jessica Elliott

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

Data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finds that restaurants accounted for 37% of all sexual harassment claims. This alarming statistic, along with many unreported cases, demonstrates why developing a sexual harassment policy is crucial. 

The bottom line is that restaurateurs are obligated to protect employees. Failing to do so may result in lawsuits, employee churn, and a decline in sales. Sexual harassment in the restaurant workplace isn’t always blatant; it spreads fast among employees and is detrimental to your restaurant as a whole. 

Restaurant owner speaking to people about the company's sexual harassment policy

Restaurants have a legal obligation to prevent sexual harassment. 

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers with 15 or more employees are under a legal obligation to protect their restaurant staff from sexual harassment. Under these requirements, a sexual harassment policy must do two things:

  1. Prevent sexual harassment and discrimination.
  2. Take immediate action. 

Perfecting your workplace training and action plans takes time, but free resources like the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Sexual Harassment Discussion Guide helps owners build a safe culture. As a legal obligation, a failure to create and maintain your policy may result in problems that ultimately cost you your business. 

Protect your restaurant with updated policies

The data shows that employees and entrepreneurs deal sexism in the hospitality industry. However, restaurant owners who fail to overcome the challenges face significant problems with their business. 

  • Threats from lawsuits.
  • Reputation damage from negative social media attention.
  • Higher staff turnover rates.
  • Decreasing sales resulting from negative customer reviews.
  • Ongoing compliance issues consume time and energy.

To lower risks, restaurant owners must understand how regulation changes affect their sexual harassment policy and make updates as necessary.

Restaurant policies help prevent sexual harassment

As a restaurant owner, you employ young adults, many of whom are new to the workforce. Your sexual harassment policy and action set a precedent for both your workplace and employees’ development. Unfortunately, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) reports, “60% of female and transgender workers and 46% of male workers report harassment as an uncomfortable aspect of work life.” 

By creating a safe and inclusive workplace, you prevent instances of sexual harassment not only inside your doors but throughout society. After all, the EEOC says, “prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace.”

A sexual harassment policy helps retain employees

Staff turnover is already high, but the lack of a sexual harassment policy makes the problem worse. The Harvard Business Review reports, “ignoring sexual harassment can damage employee morale: Research shows it increases employee stress, anxiety, burnout, and turnover intentions.” A negative culture results in a higher turnover rate. 

Whereas having a sexual harassment policy in the restaurant workplace helps you retain hospitality staff. Data analyzed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds, “costs related to employee turnover constitute the largest economic cost of sexual harassment, considerably higher than costs related to litigation.” As the cost for hiring and training increases, it’s essential to implement policies that lower costs. 

As an employer, you’ll face many challenges in the restaurant industry, including pushback from your sexual harassment policy. Unfortunately, as Kate Gallagher Robbins, director of poverty policy for the Center for American Progress, told Restaurant Business, “it can happen in any workplace. But it’s particularly pervasive at restaurants.” Taking action means protecting not only your employees but also your business as a whole.

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