Monday, January 23, 2006

Sexual harassment is NEVER in the job description

Hi Ashley,

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now as you know, I've emailed you a few times and I was glad you decided to make this advice blog. I also work in the bar industry in **** so I'm sure you'll be able to offer me some advice I can use.

I've been working at **** for a few months now, (I'm 19) and I have never had a problem until recently. There is a customer, he is a regular, that comes in every Saturday. He always approaches me for his drinks and he is generally harmless. Recently though he's been a little more vulgar and touchy feely. Two weeks ago when I was working he told me "Your tits look fantastic in that shirt" and I felt very uncomfortable. I approached my manager and told her what happened and she told me that it was "in the job description" to deal with flirtatious customers. Basically that I should suck it up - it is all a part of the job.

This guy came back in again last week and kept commenting on my body - he was very vulgar with his description. When I told him that his comments were not welcome he actually approached my manager and said that I was rude to him when all he was doing was paying me a compliment. My manager gave me shit and told me that she thought I understood what the job entailed and if I had a problem flirting with customers I could find another job - and not in the bar industry since it was the same at every bar.

Is this right? Am I just over reacting? He never actually touched me or grabbed me in anyway, just commented. I know you've been in the business for a while so I figured you would know more about this than me, is this really how it is?

Thanks B.

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First of all B, what that man did was not flirting, that was full on sexual harassment. Someone doesn't have to touch you in order to be sexually harassing you. The OHRC (Ontario Human Rights Commission) defines sexual harassment as the following:

"Sexual harassment" means that someone is bothering you by saying or doing unwanted or unwelcome things of a sexual or gender-related nature. For example, someone who makes unwelcome sexual or gender-related remarks and gestures by:

- touching you inappropriately
- making offensive jokes or remarks about women or men
- making sexual requests or suggestions
- staring at or making unwelcome comments about your body
- displaying sexually offensive pictures
- being verbally abusive to you because of your gender

Nowhere in that definition does it say, "Sexual harassment is only touching" the definition of sexual harassment also includes unwelcome comments or staring at one's body. Even though this guy didn't touch you he is still guilty of sexual harasment.

As for your manager, she's full of shit and I gaurentee she knows it. Sexual harassment is never EVER in the "job description" whether you bag groceries or work in a bar. People have come to assume that just because someone works in the bar business they are to act and dress in a certain fashion. What people fail to realize is that for the most part those men and women who are overtly flirtatious with customers CHOOSE to do so in the hopes of increasing their tips. It's not because they HAVE to to keep their jobs, they act on their own free will. I know many bartenders and bar staff that choose to NOT be overly flirtatious and they still do well.

Your boss clearly has no concept of what is acceptable and what is not. My advice to you is to quit - NOW. If she's acting the way she is over someone just commenting on how you look how do you think she's going to react to someone who grabs your ass or even your chest? Do you honestly think she's going to stand up for you and kick this guy out? Probably not, in fact I had a manager like that once before and I was given a week's suspension for having a man removed from the bar who tried to undo my work top. Her excuse?

"He spends $200 here a week, and now he'll never come back after you embarassed him like that."

I got out of there - and fast. I suggest you do the same.

I promise you, not all bar's are like this. Not all manager's are this evil. Don't let this one job discourage you from staying in the bar industry. Yes, you are going to encounter assholes and perverts on a daily basis - unfortunately that IS in the job description - but sucking it up and dealing with it even after they make you uncomfortable is NOT. If you look you will find a place that makes sure their employees are well looked after and anyone who touches you or harasses you will be dealt with accordingly.

Don't give up, the bar business is great money, great fun and a place to meet great people. I'm sure you will find a place that gives you the respect you deserve and you'll love working there.



At 11:34 AM, Blogger B said...

i would be curious to have a follow up to how this situation turns out. not everyone is able to just up and leave a job.

if you like the job, and otherwise can tolerate your boss's greed (she cares about the customers), and you want to keep the job if it weren't for this one jerk bothering you, i suggest another approach.

have a male friend be on hand to over hear his lude comments. have the male friend (naturally) defend you by confronting this man on his comments to you. sometimes men have to be put in their place by other men.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger B said...

PS this great blog idea...


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