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Waitresses – and waiters – often experience sexual harassment

Your serving job can be fast-paced, social and fun, and the tips can help you make ends meet while you go to school or work your way up through the industry. However, as you might already understand, you and other Minnesota employees who work in the food service industry may be prime targets of unwanted sexual advances and other such behaviors.

You might not realize just how prevalent sexual harassment is in food service. Up to 90 percent of survey respondents who work in the food service industry reported they had been sexually harassed on the job. These included male servers as well as female. Anyone can be subjected to sexual harassment in any industry; however, servers are especially vulnerable to this type of treatment. The following situations are just a few of those you might experience at work:

  • Your boss may require you and other female servers to wear sexually suggestive uniforms and inform you that flirting and putting up with advances from customers is just a part of the job.
  • Customers may feel entitled to touch you without permission or make lewd comments or suggestions in return for tipping.
  • Your own co-workers or managers might make advances toward you or tell crude jokes that make you uncomfortable.
  • There might be crude or offensive material posted in the breakroom or other areas where employees frequent.
  • If you stand up for yourself or your co-workers who are being sexually harassed, you could face discipline or lose your job.

You and your fellow servers or a favorite client might tell a few jokes or engage in flirting that you find harmless. If the behavior is consensual, there may be no need for concern. However, if you or another co-worker feels offended, uncomfortable or unsafe, and you state your concerns but the behavior continues, it may be sexual harassment. You have the right to feel safe at work, which includes setting your boundaries without fear of reprisal.

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