Harassment in the Restaurant

You see it on the news. You read about it on the internet. Women (and men) are being inappropriately touched without permission. This is called harassment, and unfortunately it has been happening for decades.

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Sexual harassment can happen anywhere, at any time. The restaurant industry is no exception. A recent report on sexual harassment in the restaurant industry has found that 90% of female restaurant workers have experienced sexual harassment on the job. Worse, it comes at them from all corners. The following statistics were found, according to the report commissioned by the restaurant worker advocacy organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the social justice group Forward Together:

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Regardless if the abuse comes from customers, coworkers, or a boss, workers don’t feel comfortable reporting the harassment, for fear of making the situation worse. The study found that 63% of women simply ignore it when customers harass them.

Not one Georgia waitress, though. At a restaurant called Vinnie Van Go-Go’s, in Savannah, GA, a waitress served up a whooping to a disrespectful patron. Security footage captures Emelia Holden, 21, immediately taking down a male customer who groped her from behind. She turns around and grabs him by his collar, before wrapping her arm around his neck and slamming him against the wall. She then appears to point her finger at him and reprimand him. The man spent two nights in jail, and is being charged with sexual battery.

What can we learn from this? Holden says she hopes her experience will inspire other women to stand up for themselves. “You have every right to wear what you want and you most certainly have every right to defend yourself,” she said.


As a restaurant patron, treat your waiter or waitress with decency and respect. How would you want others to treat your son or daughter, when all they’re trying to do is make some money?

As a restaurant worker, treat each other with decency and respect. As a former waitress, I know firsthand the inner workings of server life. Yes, there are unique relationships and inside jokes that form when you become part of the restaurant family, but there is no need to be rude or demeaning to others. If a guest makes you feel uncomfortable, tell someone. It doesn’t matter what the form is – words, gestures, touches – harassment is harassment. IT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED.