Labor Rights

Protecting NYC Restaurant Workers from Sexual Harassment

Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit working to end violence against women and children around the world, has launched an innovative project that aims to prevent sexual harassment of restaurant workers.

via Jaume Escofet /

Nearly 80 percent of women restaurant employees have been sexually harassed at work at least once, by either a coworker or customer, and more than half report being harassed at least monthly.

Futures Without Violence teamed up with New York restaurants Amali and Colors, anti-violence organization CONNECT and advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC) to create a series of trainings, workplace policies and educational materials for employees with the goal of preventing workplace sexual harassment.

“The restaurant industry is rife with sexual assault and harassment, and occupations that rely on tips, like waitressing, can put women in compromising positions in which they are forced to choose between putting up with harassment and earning a decent wage,” said Catherine Barnett, executive director at ROC-New York.

Women make up about 52 percent of restaurant employees, but are 66 percent of tipped workers—which means that, in many cases, they earn less than minimum wage and subsist on tips, so must endure sexual abuse from customers just to earn a meager income (an estimated $9 an hour, including tips).

“As employers, it’s our duty to take a proactive role in preventing and addressing this issue, and recognize its impact on individuals and the workplace overall,” said James Mallios, managing partner at Amali Restaurant. “The costs of implementing these programs are far outweighed by the benefits of improved employee safety, retention, productivity and overall performance.”

During its 15-month pilot project, the coalition plans to develop a set of practices and procedures that can become the industry standard for handling on-the-job sexual misconduct.

Media Resources: Futures Without Violence 10/29/2015; ROC United 10/17/2014


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