In theory, sexual harassment is an easy concept to understand. Most people get the gist of the law – that you can’t harass a person because of their sex. But one of the reasons that sexual harassment continues to be so prevalent (aside, of course, from the fear of reporting or the straight-up disregard for the law), is that many employers can’t see it for what it is. The truth is that sexual harassment is rarely going to appear in your restaurant the way it’s portrayed in the weird anti-harassment videos from the 80s.
Nerd alert: Let’s talk statistics for a sec. 62% of folks in the hospitality industry say they’ve engaged in some sort of workplace romance. The industry’s a (pun alert) hotbed for it, consistently topping out among the leading five industries and coming in significantly higher than the national average. But hospitality carries a more nefarious statistic too. At 14.23%, more sexual harassment complaints come from the hospitality sector than finance (3.98%), real estate (1.95%), construction (2.52%) and tech (5.73%) combined. With the #MeToo movement on fire, employers are reevaluating their policies on workplace romance. There are essentially three ways to tackle it. I fall in the Goldilocks camp; I think the third one’s just right.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty? Not in the Workplace: What Every Employer Needs to Know About Handling Sexual Harassment Complaints
The #MeToo movement has taken an interesting turn. When Harvey Weinstein was first accused, it’s hard to remember anyone who came to his defense. The collective outrage against him was swift and furious, and the public immediately demanded his job. Weinstein was fired from his own company three days later and has been a pariah ever since. But when Matt Lauer was accused, the reaction was different. By the time the story broke, Lauer had already been fired, and many saw him as the victim of a bandwagon smear campaign. “Allegations ONLY,” one person tweeted. “I guess guilty until proven innocent is the new norm.”
Truth be told, the restaurant industry was waiting to see who would take the fall. Bro culture has been an open secret in kitchens for years, the last bastion of bawdy behavior on the job. But with the deluge of #metoo stories sweeping the nation, it was only a matter of time before women in restaurants spoke up and spoke out. Employers: learn from the example of John Besh; take control of your corporate culture, or the court will do it for you.
Who Says You Can’t Learn from TV? 5 Employment Law Lessons Courtesy of TV's Rowdiest Restaurant Staff
I’ve written about Vanderpump Rules before; the reality TV show that follows a group of model/actor hopefuls who work together at the Sexy Unique Restaurant (SUR) in LA. In addition to being beautiful, the staff is also wildly unruly. This season’s shenanigans illustrate some excellent employment law lessons about workplace relationships, hostile work environments, discipline, termination and defamation.