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Six Tips for Harassment Prevention in the Service Industry

Harassment complaints come to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from restaurant industry workers more often than from any other sector, NPR reported in 2021.

A further study reported on by NPR shared that dependency on tips and a requirement to appear emotionally pleasant on the job work together to increase an employee’s risk of being sexually harassed. And as many as 90% of women and 70% of men in the industry reportedly experience some form of sexual harassment, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Besides the obvious trauma that can accompany sexual harassment, research has shown harassment in the workplace increases employee stress, anxiety, burnout and turnover. What’s more, it’s the employer’s legal obligation to protect their employees from sexual harassment as stated by the EEOC.

Here are six tips for harassment prevention in the service industry from Society Insurance, which provides coverage to hospitality companies.

1. Develop a policy to address workplace harassment.

A harassment policy sets the stage as to what behavior is not acceptable in the workplace. Begin your harassment prevention policy with an objective.

This is your opportunity to state the desired outcome of your company-wide policy. An example may be: “XYZ company is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from all forms of harassment.”

Next, list the guidelines of the policy, including definitions of harassment and the forms that are not tolerated, which may include protected status. It may also be beneficial to add the EEOC Sexual Discrimination Guideline and state law in your policy.

In addition to harassment, you can also add workplace bullying to your policy. Examples of bullying may include:

Verbal bullying

Physical bullying

Gesture bullying

Lastly, you will want to state the procedure an employee should follow if he or she is the victim of harassment or bullying. Be sure to include what disciplinary action may be taken on the harasser or if someone retaliates against an employee for making a harassment/bullying complaint.

2. Ensure staff receive harassment training.

Training is a key component of prevention. Your training program should consist of an in-depth review of your harassment prevention policy.

Review the forms of harassment that are not tolerated and require staff to watch the EEOC produced video called “How To Recognize, Address, and Prevent Workplace Harassment.” Conduct training within the first few days of hire and on an annual basis with all employees.

3. Distribute the company policy.

Distribute the harassment prevention policy upon hire and reintroduce updates during training. Require all employees to acknowledge the policy by signing and dating.

You should also post a copy of the harassment prevention policy in break rooms so that employees are reminded each shift. Documentation will help if your company ever experiences a harassment investigation or claim.

4. Designate two individuals to receive complaints.

Designate at least two individuals that are trustworthy to receive complaints and report them to the business owner. For smaller businesses, typically the owner and manager or lead would be designated. List who employees can report a complaint to under the procedure section of your harassment prevention policy.

5. Obtain employment practices liability insurance (EPLI).

An employer with superior internal controls and procedures can still encounter lawsuits. Every business has an EPL exposure, and even frivolous claims can require a significant investment of your time and money to hire skilled legal counsel to defend your business.

6. Explore ServSafe Workplace.

ServSafe Workplace is a comprehensive suite of training programs rooted in the cultural and social issues affecting today’s restaurant and hospitality industry, including harassment. This training program focuses on prevention and management of issues associated with the work and safety of employees and assists in strengthening an establishment’s stance against workplace harassment.

The ServSafe Workplace video on sexual harassment prevention for employees provided by the National Restaurant Association can be found here.

The employer harassment prevention course helps owners and managers:

Define sexual harassment and the two forms it can take.

Understand the impact of sexual harassment on victims and businesses.

Recognize conduct that’s appropriate, and not appropriate, for work.

Understand when and how to report sexual harassment.

Recognize employer and manager liability for reporting and addressing sexual harassment.

Learn how to create a harassment-free culture in the workplace.

Understand how to investigate sexual harassment claims in the workplace.

Real, tactical plans can help address and curb harassment. It starts with business owners and managers to create a safe working environment and lay out a clear path should incidents occur.

The post Six Tips for Harassment Prevention in the Service Industry appeared first on Cheers.

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