America’s service industry is experiencing harassment at a higher rate than workers in other industries. According to Eater, ‘More than 170,000 claims were filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) between 1995 and 2016. Of those, 83% came from women. Just over 10,000 claims were filed by employees of full-service restaurants. An additional 1,000 came from those who work in other types of eating establishments, including bars or limited-service restaurants; around 800 claims came from agricultural workers.’ Below we discuss 5 tips for harassment prevention in the service industry.

Interested in learning more on this topic? Read, ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

5 Tips for Harassment Prevention in the Service Industry

1. Develop a Policy to Address Workplace Harassment.
A harassment policy sets the stage as to what behavior is not acceptable in the workplace. Begin your harassment prevention policy with an objective. This is your opportunity to state the desired outcome of your company-wide policy. An example may be, XYZ company is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from all forms of harassment. Next, list the guidelines of the policy. Guidelines will include definitions of harassment and the forms that are not tolerated which may include protected status. It may also be beneficial to add the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Sexual Discrimination Guideline and state law in your policy. In addition to harassment, workplace bullying can be added to your policy.

Examples of bullying may include:

  • Verbal bullying
  • Physical bullying
  • Gesture bullying

Lastly, you will want to state the procedure an employee should follow if he or she is the victim of harassment or bullying. Be sure to include what disciplinary action may be taken on the harasser or if someone retaliates against an employee for making a harassment/bullying complaint.

2. Ensure Staff Receive Harassment Training.
Training is a key component of prevention. Your training program should consist of an in-depth review of your harassment prevention policy. Review the forms of harassment that are not tolerated and require staff to watch the EEOC produced video called ‘How To Recognize, Address, and Prevent Workplace Harassment’. Training should be conducted within the first few days of hire and on an annual basis with all employees.

3. Distribute the Company Policy.
Distribute the harassment prevention policy upon hire and reintroduce updates during training. Require all employees to acknowledge the policy by signing and dating. You should also post a copy of the harassment prevention policy in break rooms so that employees are reminded each shift.  Documentation will help if your company ever experiences a harassment investigation or claim.

4. Designate Two Individuals to Receive Complaints
Designate at least two individuals that are trustworthy to receive complaints and report them to the business owner. For smaller businesses, typically the owner and manager or lead would be designated. List who employees can report a complaint to under the procedure section of your harassment prevention policy.

5. Obtain Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)
An employer with superior internal controls and procedures can still encounter lawsuits. Every business has an EPL exposure, and even frivolous claims can require a significant investment of your time and money to hire skilled legal counsel to defend your business.

Watch this EPLI video or download this EPLI handout for more information surrounding EPLI coverage options through Society.

ServSafe Workplace: A Harassment Prevention Tool for the Service Industry

ServSafe Workplace is a comprehensive suite of training programs rooted in the cultural and social issues affecting today’s restaurant and hospitality industry. This training program focuses on prevention and management of issues associated with the work and safety of employees and assists in strengthening an establishment’s stance against workplace harassment.

Watch the ServSafe Workplace video on sexual harassment prevention for employees provided by the National Restaurant Association.

The employer harassment prevention course helps owners and managers:

  • Define sexual harassment and the two forms it can take
  • Understand the impact of sexual harassment on victims and businesses
  • Recognize conduct that’s appropriate, and not appropriate, for work
  • Understand when and how to report sexual harassment
  • Recognize employer and manager liability for reporting and addressing sexual harassment
  • Learn how to create a harassment-free culture in the workplace
  • Understand how to investigate sexual harassment claims in the workplace

ServSafe offers both an employer and employee harassment prevention course. As a Society Insurance policyholder you are eligible to receive a discount for ServSafe harassment prevention training by visiting the Society and ServSafe portal. Society Insurance discounts will be applied at the time of checkout.

Learn more about coverage that balances your best employment practices with solid protection against employee claims by contacting your local Society Insurance agent.