Are Workers in the Service Industry More Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment?

In many cases, sexual harassment involves a power imbalance. This is especially evident in the service industry. The nature of the service industry puts workers in a deferential position that strips them of power. The power imbalance between a waitress and customer, for example, can make the waitress feel the need to endure mistreatment to keep the customer happy, especially if her income is dependent on tips. Service workers in retail and hospitality often find the same dynamics at play.

Recent Study of Restaurant Workers

A paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shared recent findings of a study on restaurant servers and restaurant customers. Study authors from the University of Notre Dame spoke with restaurant employees and customers to determine what elements of the food service industry might make sexual harassment more likely. The study indicated that restaurant workers’ likelihood of being sexually harassed was influenced by two factors: whether they depended on tips for their financial security and if they were under pressure from their employer to present a deferential and overly friendly attitude. The data showed that survey participants were more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment if they felt both.

The data shows that restaurant workers operating under these pressures experience a power imbalance that makes sexual harassment more likely. It is suggested that the awareness of these pressures may send the message that these workers are unable or unwilling to push back against sexually inappropriate behavior from customers.

The study suggests that employers may be able to mitigate sexual harassment by addressing these factors. For example, a higher hourly rate would alleviate some of the financial strain of tip-dependence that leaves service workers’ financial security in the hands of customers.

It may also help if employers rethought their insistence that the customer is always right. Instead, employers can offer their support and encourage workers to take a stand, in a professional manner, against customers who act inappropriately.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Help Service Workers Who Are Encountering Sexual Harassment

If you are a service worker and you are being subjected to sexual harassment at work, speak with one of our South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC for legal assistance. We can help you build a case. Contact us online or call us at 856-235-7075 to set up a free consultation. From our offices in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.