Fast-food workers are frequently the targets of sexual harassment from customers. When fast-food customers harass employees, the business has a responsibility to protect and shield their employees from continued harassment.
Fast-food workers are considered “cheap” or “easy” targets for sexual harassment from customers who act as if their 30-second conversation at the counter entitles them to make unwanted sexual advances. It is estimated that up to 40% of female fast-food workers have experienced sexual harassment from customers. The harassment often begins following more than one visit to the establishment, and after the perpetrator develops a sense of infatuation with the target.
Sexual harassment of fast-food workers can include lewd comments about their appearance, the dropping of sexual innuendos, or outright requests for sexual favors. These forms of harassment can come from anyone, at any time of the day regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or level of sobriety.
Devastating Consequences of Harassment
Sexual harassment can create serious physical and psychological damage. Physical altercations can leave bruising and scarring. However, more severe are the long-term psychological consequences. Employees who have been sexually harassed by customers can experience low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms can require counseling and long-term treatment to improve.
Reporting a Customer’s Harassment
Employees of fast-food establishments should report any sexual harassment to their manager. The employee should file a formal complaint that details the specifics of the incident, and statements from any eyewitnesses to the events. This information should always be recorded in writing and placed within the employee’s personnel file.
Should the perpetrator return to the establishment, the establishment has two courses of action available. The first is to refuse service to the customer and pursue an investigation into the earlier incident. The second course of action is to pass the customer on to another employee who can complete their order.
Under no circumstances should the victim of the sexual harassment be forced to serve the customer. If an employer forces an employee to serve the customer, or seeks to punish them for refusing to serve a customer, a sexual harassment lawyer can help the employee file an EEOC or Illinois Department of Human Rights complaint against the employer. In the United States, employers can be held liable for third-party sexual harassment if they know a situation exists and they fail to take proper steps to shield their employees from further harassment.