Contrary to common belief that sexual liberation has brought a completely different behaviour pattern, servers, barkeeps, and restaurant employees in general still experience sexual harassment. Often, this comes from guests, sometimes from fellow employees, and occasionally from supervisors and/or management.
Bar patrons make lewd and suggestive remarks; ask for telephone numbers, and dates. While managers/owners make every effort to satisfy guests, on occasion difficult choices must be made.
Today female servers and bartenders are socially adept and diplomatic enough to deflect any unwanted advances, but in rare instances persistent individuals must be referred to management.
Confronting a guest is the last thing a manager want to do, more so to a regular, well-spending customer, but failing to do so may result in losing a good employee and possibly the guest too.
Often, there is no clear line separating a lewd comment from sexual harassment; much of it is in the mind of the recipient and how society defines such occurrences.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other explicit verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, are considered to be offences.
Polite and discreet management intervention solvers most cases. Persistent customers may be warned, and in severe cases, barred from the premises.
Sexual harassment is more common in small or medium-sized operations among supervisors and line workers. Such incidences are best prevented by means of clear, universal policies communicated to all employees, prior to hiring, and in writing.
All policies must be strictly enforced and handled with appropriate documentation, to prevent complications down the road.
Sexual harassment incidences between two employees can be solved in a meeting involving all parties and a witness. In unionised operations, the shop steward or a higher echelon union staffer may have to be involved.
If the harassment involves a customer and an employee, first gather all information from the latter and approach the guest with a polite request to stop. Employers are legally responsible to protect their employees and provide a pleasant and dignified working environment.
Here are some cases that could be used as models by imaginative employees, modifications not withstanding.
Tim, a server, says his favourite comeback to come-ons from female guests was to call their bluff.
When a woman whispered to Tim that what she wanted was not the menu, he whipped his apron and down beside her. “Fine, I am all yours”. She was so surprised and embarrassed that she left the restaurant.
A regular guest who knew that the service staff liked to frequent a nearby pancake house after work was bothering Kathy, a lounge waitress. After a few subtle remarks, the guest asked if she would like to meet him in the pancake house. “Actually” said Kathy “ I would rather prefer a waffle”.
On night an obnoxious guest was pestering Dorothy. She told him the she was not interested, but the guest would not take “no” for an answer. She finally told him if he would not stop, she would burst into tears. The persistent guest was so embarrassed; he left her a $ 30.00 and never returned.
Jim, in a restaurant with candle lit tables walked up to a table of men and asked one them: “ May I light your candle, Sir?” “Ooh, I wish you would,” replied the man. Jim was caught off guard, but proceeded to light the candle as if nothing had happened. Sometimes this is a good way of sending a message to the offending party.
Agnes had enough of a loud and boisterous college student crowd. When a student winked at her, Agnes asked whether there was something in his eye. The student was embarrassed and behaved in a more sober fashion after her remark.