Nevada is known across the country as a hospitality state due to its robust gaming and tourism attractions. As a result, many Las Vegas residents work in the food service industry and related positions. This can be a challenging and rewarding job, since food servers can make a good living off of tips from tourists having fun. However, the food service industry also has a reputation as a job that is rife with harassment.
Sexual harassment is the most commonly reported type of adverse working condition in the restaurant industry, states USA Today. According to a report by the food service workers’ rights group Restaurant Opportunities Center, as many as 90 percent of women working as food servers have reported being subjected to some type of sexual harassment on the job.
The Nevada Equal Rights Commission defines sexual harassment as unwanted advances, requests for favors of a sexual nature and other sexual conduct. If this behavior is unwanted and makes an employee feel that his or her job is at stake by refusing to accept or submit to the conduct; if it affects job performance; or if it creates an offensive, hostile or intimidating work environment, it can be construed as sexual harassment.
Many employees in the food industry say that they have been asked by their employers to dress or act in ways that make them uncomfortable, which can lead to unwanted sexual advances or comments from customers, coworkers or management. Up to two thirds of female servers reported being sexually harassed by their managers at least once a month, while one third said customers harassed them on a weekly basis. Being victimized by sexual harassment is not restricted to women – at least half of male food service workers reported sexual harassment by a superior.
Sexual harassment opens the door to employment litigation when restaurant owners and managers encourage the behavior or look the other way.