How Restaurant Workers Can Stop Sexual Harassment
Mother Jones|November/December 2018
How Restaurant Workers Can Stop Sexual Harassment

How restaurant workers can stop sexual harassment by customers.

Erin Wade thought she was doing everything right. When she started Homeroom, a mac-and-cheese restaurant in Oakland, California, the former attorney made sure to hire women in leadership positions, had open staff meetings once a week, and pushed for gender parity in the kitchen. Locals loved the menu and cheerful atmosphere, and soon the eatery expanded into two. “I just thought we were set,” she says. But three years ago, one of Wade’s servers delivered some unsavory news: A father dining with his family had put his hand up her shirt as she cleared the table. Many of Wade’s other staffers had similar stories.

Catalyzed by reports of sexual assault in Hollywood, thousands took to Twitter in late 2017 to share their #MeToo stories. Among them were many servers. And no surprise: From 2005 to 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received more harassment complaints from people working in food services and accommodation (which are grouped together) than from any other industry listed. The movement soon helped expose misconduct by culinary legends like Mario Batali (who is being investigated by the New York Police Department), John Besh (who said the relationship was “consensual”), and Ken Friedman (whose restaurant now faces a New York state investigation).

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November/December 2018