The loose restaurant culture has long been a breeding ground for sexual harassment. Since sexual harassment first became a legal issue, where to draw the lines has been the legal challenge facing restaurant owners. Inherent in the definition of sexual harassment is the word unwanted. Frequent unwanted sexual behavior or advances constitute sexual harassment. However, if the behavior is not unwanted or is even welcomed, then no grounds for sexual harassment exist. In today’s litigious environment, restaurant owners must become legally savvy about developing and implementing policies that protect their businesses against sexual harassment lawsuits.
About a year ago, presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s aspirations quickly faded when earlier allegations of sexual harassment came back to plague him. As the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, a decade or more earlier he had settled several sexual harassment claims outside of court to minimize the repercussions of bad publicity. While a statute of limitations may exist for bringing legal action, media exposure knows no such limits.
An NBC News article reported that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data shows 37 percent of the discrimination suits and settlements involving sexual harassment have arisen out of the food service industry.
Jokes and sexual comments that were freely and unwittingly made between workers in the past may not hold up in today’s legal climate. Consult a New York employment defense lawyer about how to insulate your restaurant or business from sexual harassment lawsuits. For more than 30 years, Hans & Associates, P.C. has helped businesses handle employment issues throughout Queens and New York City.