I’m not a dining room guy. I love sitting at the bar chatting with bartenders and casually watching the show. Unfortunately, the show sometimes goes beyond a PG rating. I recently spent a long Saturday afternoon at a bar in a casual Key West restaurant watching not one but two male bartenders repeatedly touching a female bartender. Nothing overt, but they couldn’t keep their hands off her neck, shoulders and back. It mostly happened as they were maneuvering around each other in the tight space. She somehow managed to shuffle behind them without touching them once. No, they didn’t touch her butt (or other private areas), which kept them out of the danger zone of overt sexual harassment.
It quickly became clear that she was used to being touched by the male bartenders, but she did nothing that I observed to invite these subtle intrusions. In once instance, after being touched a little longer than usual, she turned away and briefly closed her eyes and clenched her teeth. No, she wasn’t happy and I can only assume she’d rather be somewhere else but needed the job. Of course, all of this is unfortunate, particularly since she was a far better bartender than her two coworkers.
I can only imagine how annoyed she felt, but just watching all of this for a few hours made me want to yell, “Will you please keep your hands off her?” Apparently, none of this had any effect on the restaurant owner, who was doing paperwork at the bar. Business as usual, I guess.
As the father of two daughters, it really grated on me. As the editor of a restaurant publication, it made me wonder how much of this goes on all over restaurants and bars in America. A lot, I suspect. This is not the first time I’ve seen something like this. Far from it. I recently read a piece in the New York Times about how wildly blatant sexism is in kitchen. After all, much of what goes on in kitchens is behind the scenes and sexual harassment has become a disgraceful part of the culture. Out front it’s not nearly so bad, but is it acceptable?
I’m no prude, but even subtle unwelcome physical contact should not be allowed in your business. It sends all sorts of bad messages, not the least of which is that your female employees are required to put up with some level of inappropriate behavior. It also sends a message to the workplace that women should not work for your restaurant because they are less than equal to the men who work there. And how does it look to your customers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I know some of you are laughing and saying, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” I know, when I describe the scenario, it may not seem like a big deal, but you’re probably a guy thinking that. Ladies, what do you think? All of you: Do you have policies in place to protect females (and males) from harassment? Even if you do, how do you prevent such a thing? Please email me at [email protected].