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Non-employee sexual harassment isn't legal

In last week's blog post, we discussed how people work for tips in the restaurant industry are more prone to have to deal with sexual harassment than those who don't depend upon tips. The sexual harassment in many of those cases comes from the customers or guests of the restaurant who is getting service. The fact that the sexual harassment is coming from customers doesn't mean that the workers should have to deal with the harassment. California restaurants are still expected to handle these types of cases.

Sexual harassment of any sort is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers who have at least 15 employees. This act protects workers from having to deal with unwanted sexual advances from supervisors, other workers, or non-employees.

In order for the actions to be considered sexual harassment, they have to be unwelcome advances or comments. This is where things might get tricky for servers, especially those who are very friendly. Still, there is no excuse for a worker to have to deal with sexual harassment. No matter what happens in a case, a worker who feels he or she has been sexually harassed should learn about sexual harassment laws to determine if the incident he or her faced warrants action.

For anyone who is being subjected to sexual harassment, telling the harasser to stop might help. Of course, that might affect the tip a customer leaves if the customer was the harasser. That might prevent a server from speaking up. It might be possible for the server to speak to a supervisor to come up with an acceptable solution to stop the sexual harassment.

If a supervisor refuses to take action to stop sexual harassment, the employee does have right to escalate the complaint. Understanding how to do so can help to make the process a little less stressful.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Sexual Harassment" Oct. 29, 2014

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