Why Restaurants Need a Sexual Harassment Policy

More sexual harassment claims are filed in the restaurant industry than any other, with as many as 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men having experienced sexual harassment in the industry. On top of that, the #MeToo movement has brought sexual harassment to the forefront of many conversations about workers’ rights. As a result, more and more states are passing laws requiring businesses to have sexual harassment policies. 

Whether a recent change in your state’s law has made sexual harassment training mandatory or you’re simply trying to create a safer, more comfortable workspace, having a sexual harassment policy is important. 

What Is Sexual Harassment?

To begin understanding everything that a sexual harassment policy encompasses, review your state’s definition of sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines also provide a clear definition. In this context, sexual harassment includes: 

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  • Sexual conduct that is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment
  • Situations where submission to or rejection of sexual conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions
  • Sexual conduct that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance
  • Sexual conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment

In addition to the definition of sexual harassment, your policy should include additional information addressing how your employees can file a complaint and what disciplinary action will be taken. By explaining how claims will be handled, you’re reassuring employees that their complaints will be taken seriously.   

Training Is Key to Prevention

Simply having a sexual harassment policy isn’t enough. It’s equally important to train your employees on what constitutes sexual harassment, how to spot it and how to report it. During training, make it clear that your staff can come to you with complaints and that they do not need to fear retaliation. 

If you’re uncertain about where to begin with this training, ServSafe provides an online training program. Some insurance providers even offer discounts on ServSafe programs — ask yours about potential savings. The Society for Human Resources Management also provides extensive resources to its members. If your restaurant has a human resources manager, it may be worth purchasing a membership for them. 

Preparation Can Protect Your Employees and Business

Lastly, remember that a sexual harassment policy isn’t something you can create and then forget about. State legislatures continue to make revisions to sexual harassment laws, so it’s important for restaurant owners to keep up with your state’s laws. For example, as of January 1, 2020, a new law in Illinois requires all businesses to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. It’s also a good idea to have a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws review your policy from the get-go and after any updates are made. 

While having a solid sexual harassment policy and providing regular training can drastically reduce the chance of harassment taking place at your restaurant, it can still happen. For an extra layer of protection for your restaurant, you can ask your insurance provider about the types of policies they offer.