Sexual harassment, despite being a serious crime that has room for several laws and statuses of the human rights act remains a quite common, being considered “normal” or “part of the job” for some women. In this study, one aims to show the difficulties of working in the restaurant industry when this type of behavior is intriguingly common.
According to Doctor Arjun P. Aggarwal, sexual harassment is considered as a complex problem which involves men and women, their behavior and perceptions, and social rules of the society. It is confined to no class, level or profession. It may happen both to executives and factory workers. It happens not only in the classroom and in the workplace, but even in churches and parliamentary chambers. The sexual harassment can be an expression of desire or power, or even both. Sexual harassment is an attempt to set power over the other person, whether it is from co-workers, supervisors, or customers.
According to Aggarwal, the sexual harassment is the sexually-oriented practice which threatens a continued employment of individual, negatively influences his/her work performance, or the sense of his or her personal dignity. The harassment behavior can manifest itself blatantly in different forms, for instance; grabbing, leering and sexual assault. More forms of sexual harassment can include sexual innuendoes and propositions for sexual favors or dates.
According to Canlii, the Canadian Legal Information Institute (1999), verbally, sexual harassment may include:
- Unwelcome remarks;
- Jokes that cause awkwardness or embarrassment;
- Innuendoes or taunting;
- Gender-based insults or sexist remarks;
- Displaying of pornographic or other offensive or derogatory pictures;
- Telephone calls with sexual overtones;
Physically, the r female employee can be the victim of:
- Brushing against;
Psychological harassment can include:
- A relentless proposal of physical contact;
- The beginning with hints which can lead to overt asking for dates;
- Sexual favors;
Sexual Harassment in Canada
According to the company Catalyst, an organization specialized in jobs for women in Canada, in 2004, 512,000 incidents of sexual harassments were recorded by police. In 2007, they have recoded 24,200 sexual offenses .About 1 in 10 sexual abuses are reported to the police. Young people and females experience higher rate of sexual harassment. The age group of 15-24 is the group with the most victims of sexual discrimination.
Sexual Harassment of Woman at Work
According to Bower (2002), there are two types of sexual harassments, due to the law:
- Quid pro quo harassment, with a translation “this for that,” is a type of harassment where boss threatens not promote or to fire his or her employee if he or she does not want to have sex with him or her.
- Hostile work environment harassment is a type of harassment where conduct or speech is “severe or pervasive” to make a working environment hostile or abusive. Standards used by the civil rights courts and agencies in determining if a hostile working environment exists depend on if a reasonable person, at the similar or same situation, could find the following conduct offensive.
“Sexual harassment at work can be defined by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature such that submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
According to Catalyst, harassments may not necessarily cause any threats/acts of firing or economic sufferings. The harasser’s behavior must be unwelcome. The sexual harasser can be woman or man and may not necessarily be of the opposite sex. Harassers can be the subordinates, victim’s supervisors, co-workers, clients, supervisors in another area, or even non-employees.
The typical harasser of federal female employees was a male coworker who was married, older than the victim, of the same race or ethnic background, and likely to have harassed others at work, according to descriptions of the victims. Of the woman who reported being harassed (and described the incident in some detail), 79 percent indicated that the harasser was alone man; 16 percent reported that the incident involved two or more men; 2 percent said the incident involved both male and female harassers; and 3 percent said they were harassed by one or more women. In 37 percent of the cases women reported harassment by an immediate or higher level supervisor; 65 percent were bothered by a co-worker or other federal employee with no supervisory authority over the victim; and only 4 percent were bothered by a subordinate.
Sexual Harassment in Restaurants
Sexual harassment is quite common in restaurants; a research by Patti A. Giuffre and Christine L. Williams shows that regardless of age, race or sexual orientation, there is possibility of suffering from harassment. This harassment can come from employers, employees and customers, and the biggest problem is how to identify what can be considered a sexual harassment. Sometimes, these aggressive behaviors are considered just part of the job, unconsciously.
Researchers consider that almost 70 percent of employed women experienced behavior that one may legally constitute as a sexual harassment; nevertheless, a lower percentage of women consider to have experienced the sexual harassment. Paludi and Barickman write that “the great majority of women who are abused by behavior that fits legal definitions of sexual harassment – and who are traumatized by the experience – do not label what have happened to them as “sexual harassment”.
Still, in the study of Giuffre and Williams was found that when sexual harassment is committed by a white male heterosexual – further if the victim is a white woman – this crime becomes “acceptable” by society, and there is more chance of the criminal even to be considered as a harasser by pure social pressure. By having this type of case, it is difficult to identify what would be considered harassment or not, because, for some offenders, harassment is permissive, and for others is condemnable. There is still a culture in restaurants where the waitresses are expected to act in a more sensual and sexual way, as a part of their work.
The doubt also manifests in the workplace: Giuffre and Williams show that if there is any working environment sexual intercourse, victims do not know how to identify what may be a simple joke or what may be a sexual harassment – which may, eventually, turn into a rape. In non-sexual environments, victims are extremely modest, tracing every touch more intimate as sexual harassment – sometimes in an exaggerated way.
Kari Lerum (2004) found out that perceptions of sexual harassment by waitresses depend on organization hierarchies, workers’ values and working conditions. Waitresses consider that sexual harassment from clients is quite common, and it is a part of the job; sometimes it is institutionalized as a part of the restaurant culture. Moreover, sex role spillover theory discusses whether that sexual harassment is a commonplace in women’s work because it replicates women’s traditional roles to serve and care for others. Theories of workplace culture explain the everyday sexual harassment and focus on aspect of the establishment which supports the sexual behavior at work.
Sexual harassment in restaurants – particularly waitresses – is an act that goes unnoticed by the society, and sometimes still is justified by the presence of the white man who is allowed to harass when his presence is more respectable in the society. Despite strong organizations into respect for women, these organizations fail to achieve the simplest jobs, such as restaurants.
The function of waitresses is sexualized to the point of female workers feels prostituted as required by the working environment to flirt with consumers, respond with smiles to harassments and daily hear some kinds of verbal abuse.
The government invests in information, but still it is not enough; this information needs to go until the most humble society. Women, on the need to pay their bills, are used as objects in a sexist and disrespectful environment. To change this situation, the society and culture of sexism should be revised. The laws, though explicit, still are not applicable in a society that lives by prejudices of the past and lives in a culture of profit at any cost (further when the price is going to be paid by the subordinate).
This culture, I believe, will be broken as from the hierarchy: when the boss does not require the employee to submit herself to libidinous acts of customers, and properly inform the labor rights of women, rigorously enforcing the law and valuing the person behind the professional.