The Restaurant Industry’s Reckoning… November 08,2017

By Jason VanGotten, Colorado Restaurant Insurance --
In the wake of Josh Besh, a New Orleans chef who recently stepped down from his role amidst allegations of sexual harassment, the industry grapples with how to deal with the issue. According to an eight-month long investigation by the Times-Picayune, 25 current and former employees of the Besh Restaurant Group claimed to be victims of sexual harassment while on the job. Two have actually filed official claims in recent months with the EEOC. Up until last month the company, which employs approximately 1200 people, had no director of human resources and multiple women said that their complaints were ignored when they attempted to report them.
According to the EEOC, only seven percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, yet roughly 37 percent of the sexual harassment claims that the commission processes come from restaurant staff.
Even more alarming, approximately three out of four employees who experience workplace harassment never report this behavior due to fears of not being believed, being ignored, or experiencing social or professional retaliation.
4 Action Items Restaurant Owners Can Do to Keep Their Employees Safe…
  • Train your managers – Offer training courses that will enable managers to more readily identify potential problems and to determine what the appropriate actions might be to prevent harassment before it occurs.
  • Have a clear process – Have a written anti-harassment policy that guides employees on what types of behaviors are inappropriate for your employees, customers, and even third party vendors. The policy should be included in your employee handbook and signed by each employee indicating that they understand the policy guidelines. Consider establishing at least two employee advocates, if your restaurant does not have a HR department, where employees can approach with complaints without any type of retaliation.
  • Educate employees – Employers must also insure that these policies are followed, enforced, trained and discussed on an ongoing basis. In-person training is much more effective. Make sure your employees know what is appropriate and how to respond when harassed and remove the risk of retaliation, such as loss of their job, inconvenient shifts, or fewer tables.
  • Respond quickly to issues – Restaurant customers are not exempt from harassment. Have a reporting system in place when a customer is out of line. Make sure management is trained in handling a customer that crosses the line.
Anthony Bourdain was recently interviewed by Refinery29 and stated, “Despite some skepticism from industry insiders, the restaurant world is next up for a public reckoning.”
If you do get sued because of some kind of harassment case, it has the possibility of costing you more than a half a million dollars. To help pay those high costs you may want to consider Employment Practices Liability Insurance, also called EPLI.  This insurance can protect your business from any type of potential employee related lawsuits. Consult Colorado Restaurant Insurance at or call 303-880-2806 and speak with Jason VanGotten to learn more about how to manage your restaurant risks.

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