Misconduct Common in Workplaces
AP reports how sexual misconduct is now becoming a commonplace in hospitality work
This article by Don Babwin originally appeared in The Associated Press.
CHICAGO (AP) — One woman recalls how a general manager at a Chicago-area restaurant where she worked told her that if security cameras recorded him reaching between her legs and grabbing her genitals, he could simply “edit that out.”
Another woman worked at an Atlanta restaurant and says her boss did nothing when two dishwashers kept making vulgar comments, so she quit wearing makeup to look less attractive and hopefully end the verbal abuse.
In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against several prominent men in entertainment, politics and journalism, accounts like the ones these women share quietly play out in restaurants, bars and hotels across the country and rarely get the headlines.
Court documents and interviews with the women and experts on the topic show hospitality industry workers are routinely subjected to sexual abuse and harassment from bosses, co-workers and customers that are largely unchecked. The nature of the work, which often has employees relying on tips, can make them especially vulnerable to abuse.
“I was absolutely humiliated,” said Sharonda Fields, who said the abuse at the Atlanta restaurant began shortly after she started working there last year. “It was degrading. I felt embarrassed. I felt low. I just felt like nothing happened when those guys talked to me that way, and especially when the staff and the managers knew what was going on. It made me feel like dirt.”
She filed a lawsuit against the restaurant last spring. Calls to the restaurant from The Associated Press went unanswered.
Joyce Smithey, an Annapolis, Maryland, attorney who has handled several sexual harassment lawsuits, said those accused of misconduct “have a great sense of who the victims are, who the women are who will put up with this, who need the job, are so scared they don’t fight back.”