New York, NY– Restaurant workers are some of some hardest working and underappreciated people in the American workforce. These workers also happened to be subjected to a greater amount of sexual harassment than almost every other category of worker besides those in the agricultural industry.
A former maître d’ for an upscale Central Park restaurant knows all too well the rampant sexual harassment restaurant workers face and has filed a federal lawsuit.
Akira Smalls alleges that one of her formal managers at Loeb Boathouse subjected her to unwanted, sexually-charged comments, once asking her if she had sexually transmitted diseases, Reuters reported. She alleges that one time a cook at the restaurant got her drunk so he could attempt to have sex with her.
She allegedly spoke to the owners about the sexual harassment back in 2013 but they did nothing to stop it.
Reuters also reported that Smalls, who is black, alleges she faced racial discrimination from the owners of the restaurant who once asked her to change her hairstyle so she looked less ethnic.
Small is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages for sexual harassment and discrimination.
In a survey from last year conducted by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 5,000 restaurant workers were asked about their experiences with sexual harassment on the job. In that survey 90 percent of female servers have encountered sexual harassment. Of those servers who were harassed, 60 percent said they were harassed by their boss while 80 percent said they were harassed by a customer. One-third of the women surveyed said customers touched them inappropriately, but most of the harassment came in the form of inappropriate comments, lewd jokes and requests for dates.
The study suggested that sexual harassment is so common among restaurant workers because it is somewhat normalized and the victims don’t report. Since many restaurant workers depend on tips, they are more will to be dress provocatively and flirt with their customers which opens them up to unwanted attention.
Along with viewing sexual harassment as a normal part of their work routine, restaurant workers also fear retaliation so they just tolerate the harassment and never speak up. Some victims of sexual harassment only speak up if the harassment gets really bad or they’ve been forced out of their jobs. Retaliation is such a common practice associated with harassment and discrimination that it is much easier for a sexual harassment attorney to prove than the original harassment.
Facing sexual harassment every day wears away at a person’s psyche and their mental well-being. Victims feel embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated. Those feelings are exacerbated when their employer fails to stand up for their rights and take action against the harasser. No person should tolerate daily harassment and they won’t have to when they retain a sexual harassment attorney to stand up for them and seek compensation for the emotional distress they endured.