As many of us in the food-service industry I started working at a restaurant/hotel at 16. The managers who also happened to be the sons of the owner flirted and maybe even more with employees. I think most of us back then thought flirting was the way it was and blew it off. Basically, thoughts were that they behaved like spoiled jerks. But unfortunately, there were also those that were very uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do other than try to stay away from the managers or quit.
There weren’t any other options. There sure wasn’t training on sexual harassment (or food safety for that matter), or a human resources department. There was only the owner/general manager who was also the father of the managers. Though we’ve come a long way since then we have a long way to go.
Some states, like California since 2016, require companies to provide supervisors with sexual harassment training. Restaurant companies, especially with their relatively young workforce and often a person’s first job, are in a crucial position to create and provide tools to deal with the issue.
New employees go through basic training on company polices and procedures. This includes forms to “read” and sign acknowledging they understand and received the information. But like listening to safety instructions before a flight, do people read the safety info cards let alone even listen to the announcements? This isn’t training, it’s paperwork.
Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees against any type of harassment and bullying from co-workers, vendors and customers. It’s important to make all levels in the company aware of what sexual harassment is, how to prevent it and steps to take if it does happen. “Harassment” is a general term that means something different to different people.
It’s an uncomfortable topic for people to talk about. Address this subject frequently. Talking about harassment in orientations, providing classroom training, meetings, etc. will decrease the knowledge gap.
- Expectations. Expectations must be made very clear to all levels in the company from the line cook to the director of operations.
- Contact information. It’s essential that employees are aware of what they can do and who they can reach out to if they experience or witness harassment. Provide them with the contact information for their district managers, regional managers, director of operations and human resources.
- Provide multiple options for reporting harassment. Offer several ways to help employees feel comfortable and report any situations. Designate a representative/liaison that people feel comfortable with.
- Meetings. Have pre-shift meetings, in which managers review a few important items each day with the staff prior to the meal period. Less is more. If you try to cover too many topics many won’t take it all in or important points will get buried among other info.
- Check in with employees. To open communication and put employees at ease meet one on one from time to time.
- Make it happen. Too often adequate time and resources are not provided for ongoing training. Inadequate training effects employee’s confidence and employee retention.
Sexual harassment prevention training can provide employees with a sense of workplace safety and protection to help them become more comfortable and develop stronger bonds with other employees.