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How unions can help hospitality workers facing customer harassment

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Hotel And Restaurant Unions |

Unions help protect workers from inappropriate conduct by businesses. Organized employees often have access to better information about their rights and more support when they need to communicate with an employer about their concerns.

Union representatives can go to bat for workers facing an unjust termination or can challenge unsafe working conditions. A union can also potentially help workers facing misconduct on the job, including sexual harassment. After all, the law protects workers from sexual harassment and compels employers to maintain a discrimination-free workplace.

Those in the service sector, including hotel, bar and restaurant employees, may be at elevated risk of sexual harassment because of their regular interactions with customers. A union can help workers stand up to frequent misconduct by business patrons.

Reporting harassment can lead to retaliation

Technically, the law protects workers from harassment on the job and also specifically protects them from employer retaliation. If someone reports harassment, they should not have to worry about punitive measures taken by their employer.

That being said, many businesses find subtle ways to retaliate against those who speak up about sexual harassment and similar issues. Particularly when a complaint relates to customer conduct, managers may ignore or downplay a worker’s concerns. They may insist that accepting unwanted touching and uncomfortable advances is part of the job.

A hospitality union can make all the difference for employees facing customer sexual harassment. Union representatives can remind management at the company about what the law requires, which is a harassment-free work environment. They can help the company come up with viable solutions to an otherwise untenable situation.

If customers frequently engage in inappropriate conduct toward employees, management should intervene. Establishing and enforcing rules about customer conduct, asking certain patrons to leave when they become inappropriate toward workers or having workers unlikely to face the same harassment handle problem customers are all viable solutions for sexual harassment issues caused by customers.

Particularly if workers have informally mentioned an issue to supervisors or managers without an appropriate response, they may need the assistance of a union representative to effectively address that issue. Having assistance from a union can take a lot of the risk and stress out of discussing workplace issues. Employees who document their experiences and know their rights can turn to a union to help them assert those rights.