Sexual Harassment Disproportionately Affects Restaurant Workers

The link between sexual harassment and the restaurant business has come into the national spotlight recently, in part due to allegations by several women against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and the discussions they have inspired. As we discussed in a previous blog post here, journalists at MSNBC took the opportunity to review statistics on the prevalence of sexual harassment in restaurants. The surprising results appeared last week in a Huffington Post article entitled, Restaurants, Sexual Harassment Go Hand-In-Hand, According To New Report.

According to the article, fewer than 9% of American workers are employed by restaurants, yet 37% of the sexual harassment suits reported by the federal government so far in 2011 have taken place in restaurants. A poll of Louisiana restaurant employees cited by MSNBC indicated that 42% of female restaurant employees had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their careers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in 2006 that it had entered into a settlement agreement with Cracker Barrel, a nationwide chain of “family dining” restaurants, for $2 million to resolve discrimination claims including sexual harassment. Earlier this year, a female employee of a Gordon Ramsay-affiliated restaurant in New York City filed a sexual harassment complaint with the state’s human rights agency. She alleged that male chefs subjected her to ongoing verbal abuse, sexual propositions, and groping. Male chefs staged a walkout in protest in April that apparently shut the restaurant down for several days.

The amount of sexual harassment settlements has also been a topic of debate. According to a Slate article entitled Is $45,000 a Lot for a Sexual Harassment Settlement?, one woman who accused Cain of sexual harassment received a $45,000 settlement and a second woman received a $35,000 settlement. The article points to a study that reviewed 50 sexual harassment cases before Chicago magistrate judges, revealing that victims of sexual harassment who prevail at trial receive an average jury award of $217,000. Those who resolve their cases before trial receive significantly less, with an average settlement of $53,000 and median of $30,000.

As with all discrimination cases, the value of a sexual harassment case is very fact specific. It is not uncommon for sexual harassment to lead to constructive discharge, where the sexual harassment victim has no choice but to resign due to intolerable working conditions. In such a scenario, recovery is not limited to emotional distress damages since the employee will certainly suffer economic loss as well. As one can imagine, the economic loss can vary greatly depending on one’s salary and length of unemployment.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, contact the Boston sexual harassment attorneys at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. through our website or at (617)973-6434 to schedule a confidential consultation.

More Sexual Harassment Blog Posts by The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.:

Sexual Harassment Claims Against Herman Cain, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (November 3, 2011)
Sexual Harassment Claims in Federal Court: Overcoming the Farragher/Ellerth Defense, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (October 5, 2008)
Sexual Harassment and Race Discrimination Claims Against Tavern on the Green Settled for $2.2 million, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (June 8, 2008)