Stop Telling Me to Ignore Sexual Harassment Because It’s ‘The Restaurant Industry’


The restaurant industry seems to be a breeding ground for inappropriate workplace behavior. If I had a dollar for every sexually aggressive comment made to me by some sleazy cook or some fat drunk customer, I probably wouldn’t have to wait tables anymore!
The relaxed atmosphere surrounding the restaurant industry seems to have confused people into thinking that sexual harassment is not only okay, but expected.

Let’s get one thing straight. Waiters and waitresses exist to serve food. We are not eye candy. We do not work this job to be ogled.

Inappropriately looking at or talking about a person who has put themselves out there trying to make an honest living is shameful. It should never be acceptable, no matter what industry it occurs in.
As an industry and as a society – we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. No more “it’s the restaurant industry, it happens”. Or, “Can’t you just take it as a compliment?”

I refuse to reduce harassment to normalcy because it happens in a certain industry.

If some of the comments I have personally received came from men in the street rather than my co-workers/customers, they would objectively be considered harassment. So why am I expected to ignore them when I am at my JOB? Shouldn’t someone feel safer in their workplace than out on the street?!

A study completed in 2014 by the Restaurant Opportunities Center reported that 90% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment, half of whom say they experience it on a weekly basis. Two thirds of the women and half of the men surveyed reported sexual harassment directed at them by a restaurant owner, supervisor, or manager. A majority of these people stated they felt fearful to report these crimes committed by management and customers, as they believed they would face negative consequences in doing so.

This proves three things. Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is an epidemic. The average restaurant managers are not committed to reversing the sexualized culture of the industry. Most of these crimes are going unreported.

The hard-working men and women of the restaurant industry deserve to feel safe. Our customers, co-workers, and managers who feel it is acceptable to sexually harass us need to be held accountable for their actions. No more suffering in silence.

For those who don’t have a trusted member of management to report crimes to – there are many resources available for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace (many of which can be found through a simple Google search).

Do not be afraid of the can of worms reporting sexual harassment may or may not open. The decent people of the restaurant industry need to begin holding themselves responsible for reversing the sexualized culture. Speaking up about sexual harassment will lessen the frequency of the crimes and open the door for other victims to come forward. A person’s feelings of discomfort, fear, or violation deserve to be taken seriously, no matter what industry they occur in.