One chef's simple color-coded solution to end sexual harassment in her restaurant could just be the blueprint the service industry needs.
When Chef Erin Wade learned that most of her staff had been dealing with sexual harassment at her restaurant Homeroom in Oakland, CA, she was shocked. The inciting incident was a father of four who reached under one server's blouse in front of his kids. "We're a family restaurant, our specialty is mac and cheese!" Wade remembers thinking at the time, as if comfort foods were a bulwark against assault. She quickly realized that her restaurant wasn't a particular hotbed for harassers. "My staff said that they'd experienced harassment in every restaurant they worked at, but they never before dared to bring the issue to their bosses."
The restaurant industry is rife with sexual harassment: Nearly 80 percent of female staff and 49 percent of male staff report having experienced sexual harassment at work from clients, chefs, and co-workers, according to a study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. With half of the United States’ workforce working in restaurants at some point in their lives, the magnitude of the issue is enormous. Yet none of the existing training programs for general harassment situations, such as bystander training, has been shown to make much of a difference.
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