The servers, cooks, runners, bussers, bartenders, and dishwashers that run America’s restaurants experience sexual harassment at a higher rate than workers in every other industry, according to new data acquired, studied, and reported by Buzzfeed.
More than 170,000 claims were filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 1995 and 2016. Of those, 83 percent came from women. Just over 10,000 were filed by employees of full-service restaurants. An additional 1,000 came from those who work in other types of eating establishments, including bars or limited-service restaurants; around 800 claims came from agricultural workers. The EEOC notes that these complaints only represent the ones that were not resolved internally — and of course don’t count the ones that were never reported at all.
Some “work settings are just more fertile ground” for inappropriate behavior, said Meg A. Bond, director for the Center for Women and Work at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, acknowledging the theory that servers receive “a disproportionate amount of sexual harassment from both customers and superiors,” as Buzzfeed writes, due to their job’s unique responsibilities.
These statistics support a 2014 report from Restaurant Opportunities Center United that concluded that 90 percent of women in the foodservice industry have experienced a form of sexual harassment; 70 percent of men in hospitality have experienced harassment on the job as well.
Serious sexual harassment claims have come to light in many industries this year, from entertainment to media, and the rough and tumble bro-culture of the restaurant industry has not been immune to serious accusations (against chefs as prolific as John Besh) and a wave of culpability from those who many have been complicit (including the food world’s most notorious representative, Anthony Bourdain).