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Sexual harassment pervasive among service industry workers

Anyone who doubts the existence of sexual harassment in the workplace should talk to service industry employees. A high likelihood exists that a woman employed as a restaurant server in New York has experienced unwanted touching, lewd comments or other actions sexual in nature.

A survey conducted by the Restaurant Opportunities Center discovered that over 90 percent of female servers had to cope with inappropriate behavior from customers. Most of the 688 women that responded explained that they needed to ignore bad behavior or indulge customers in order to earn tips.

Sexual harassment is not unique to the service industry. Across all workplaces, another study found that 60 percent of women reported that they were the target of unwanted sexual attention at work. A survey sponsored by Cosmopolitan magazine produced results showing that one-third of women suffered some form of harassment at work at least once. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the vast majority of women do not report harassment. Fears about retaliation or career damage keep them silent.

Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveal that outright rape happens to people at work over 43,000 times a year. Because many victims likely do not feel able to report an attack, the true number of workplace rapes is believed to be much higher.

Despite fears of job loss or smearing of reputation, a person raped or harassed at work could find support in the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protection from unwelcome sexual advances and other forms of harassment at work. Other states including New York have similar prohibitions against this type of behavior. Those who find themselves having to endure a hostile working environment as a result of such harassment may want to meet with an attorney to learn what recourse they may have.

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