The restaurant industry provides a lot of employment. What’s more, it offers a lot of part-time work ideal for students or parents of young children who cannot work full-time.
The downside (apart from the low wages) is that the industry has a higher-than-usual rate of sexual harassment. Why is this?
It’s all about service with a smile
Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a server serve your food with a sullen glare? Did you leave them a big tip? Did you return again?
The industry is so dependent on customer satisfaction that it can push servers too hard to keep customers happy regardless of how the server is feeling.
If you work as a computer programmer, you probably don’t have your boss telling you to smile more. They probably don’t care about your facial expression, provided you do the work. What’s more, whether you smile or sit there frowning won’t make a difference to your earnings.
Unfortunately, many establishments and their managers and customers seem to believe that smiling is part of your job. Some go even further, expecting you to be chatty with customers, flirt with them or wear clothing that male customers find sexually attractive.
As a server, you need to be civil, but your earnings should not depend on how smiley or attractive a customer finds you. Yet, even if your employer never tells you how to behave, you know that being smiley, even when you feel upset or angry, will get you more tips. As your base rate will typically be low, you may feel you have no choice but to comply.
Employers have a duty to protect their employees from harassment of any kind. If you feel your employer has left you open to sexual harassment, or ignored your reports of it, seek legal help to understand your options.