If you own a restaurant or cafe, it’s important to understand how much of an issue sexual harassment by customers can be for servers. As the front line between restaurant and client, it’s they who are most likely to experience this unwanted and inappropriate attention.
Many customers (particularly male ones) have an expectation that a server, in particular a female one, will look, behave and dress in a certain way.
Have policies and make them clear to everyone
Having an employee handbook that says you do not tolerate sexual harassment is not enough. You need to let people know you are serious. Have discussions with your staff so they understand what sort of customer behavior they should report to you and understand how you will deal with it. You need to train your staff and managers to deal with issues when they arise.
You might also consider signs of some sort that make it clear to customers that you won’t accept harassment. Finally, you need to follow up on your promises if a customer does harass one of your staff. Otherwise, you could be held responsible for not doing enough when harassment does occur.
Sometimes that will mean they need to ask a customer to leave. Other times, a quiet word or simply swapping out the server attending to the customer can get the message across and protect the staff.
It’s a difficult area, especially when you are under such pressure to keep the customers happy. Consider getting legal guidance to find out more about your options for dealing with sexual harassment.