Take Harassment Off the Menu!

Welcome to a fictional Restaurant. Meet Roger, a high-performing manager with a very touchy-feely style and edgy sense of humor.

Today, Roger is meeting with Margo, an employee, about a promotion. When Margo arrives, she overhears him joking on the phone about a gay employee. His screensaver is a picture of his wife in a Brazilian bikini.

Margo is known to be easily offended. That concerns Roger re: the promotion.

Roger speaks honestly with her, acknowledges she’s qualified,  but she’s uptight. He says she needs to loosen up, “liberate herself from that Catholic School upbringing”. Reminds her she’s in the restaurant business, things move too fast for co-workers to walk on eggshells around her, and you certainly can’t get be judgmental of the customers.

Any potential harassment there? Probably so. Think it’s over the top and doesn’t happen in today’s PC workplace? Wrong! Such high-risk scenarios play out daily in workplaces large and small and especially in the Food, Beverage and Hospitality world.

That scene is a ticking litigation time bomb which can be defused via effective Workplace Harassment Prevention training which teaches:

  • Awareness
  • Prevention
  • Response

Can your supervisors and employees recognize harassment and respond to it effectively? It’s essential that they do. That’s where training comes in.

Here are 3 core concepts our powerful, effective training drives home:

Harassment is Unwelcome Conduct: If it’s welcome, it’s not necessarily harassment. But welcome to whom? Roger was in a private conversation with homophobic overtones when Margo walked in. The conversation was welcome to the people having it. However, we work in an environment and must be aware of what’s welcome to others.

Intent vs. Impact: Harassment is about impact, not intent. It’s defined 100% by the impact on the other person Roger may not mean anything by his conduct. He’s just being himself. Unfortunately, that conduct makes him a runaway train headed for a cliff with the business’s resources and reputation aboard.

Consenting vs. Welcome: If someone consents it’s probably welcome, right? Say you’re leaving work, it’s dark, a stranger comes up, points a 9 MM at you, says “give me your wallet and your keys”. Will you consent? Darn Skippy. Are you welcoming giving up your wallet? No. At work people consent to things they don’t welcome for various reasons. Consent does not necessarily=welcomeness.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings make a Harassment policy and training essential!

  • 1998: Burlington Indus. v. Ellerith & Faragher v. City of Boca Raton
  • Average punitive damages $250,000, not counting attorney fees
  • To avoid punitive damages employers must:
    • Have a clear, well-communicated anti-harassment policy
    • Provide effective training, including the complaint procedure
  • Employers must conduct a prompt, thorough investigation of claims and respond effectively to be protected. Supervisors must know their legal duty to take action!

37% of harassment complaints to the EEOC are from the restaurant industry? It’s true!

Costs of Workplace Harassment

  • Fines from EEOC complaints
    • 3 Million: Penalties collected by EEOC for sexual harassment violations in FY2011
    • 11,364: Sexual harassment claims received by EEOC, state & local agencies in FY2011
  • Litigation and settlements
  • Time and resources spent on legal issues
  • Dysfunctional work relationships
  • Loss of team unity
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Damage to the company’s reputation


Even given that, some employers don’t do Harassment Prevention training! Some common reasons:

  • Training will just stir things up
  • It’s a can of worms
  • Why open Pandora’s Box?
  • It costs too much in employee work time
  • Let sleeping dogs lie

On the last 2 points above:

1) Compare that cost to the costs of a lawsuit and punitive damages
2) Dogs do wake up, and when they do – training is a very good thing!