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Chef John Besh Creates Culture of Sexual Harassment at Work

Inappropriate conduct can be pervasive in some work environments. One has to look no further than the recent string of sexual harassment allegations against New Orleans chef and restaurateur John Besh and some of his male employees and managers.

According to The Times-Picayune, during the past several years, the John Besh Restaurant Group fostered a culture of sexual harassment. So far, 25 current and former female employees have come forward to allege that they were sexually harassed on the job. The women chronicled a workplace where their male bosses and co-workers touched them without consent, made lewd comments regarding their appearance, and in some cases attempted to use their positions of authority to convince them to have sex.

Often, when female employees rebuffed these advances and spoke out against the sexual harassment, they were ignored, berated, or even ostracized.

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Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

Over one-third of all sexual harassment claims reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are from the restaurant industry

The John Besh Restaurant Group isn’t an outlier in the restaurant business; sexual harassment has long been an issue in the industry. In fact, a 2014 study by Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a worker advocacy group, found that 80% of female restaurant employees reported that they experienced on-the-job harassment from other employees and 66% reported that they were harassed by their managers.

In the fast food industry, 40% of female employees reported being subject to “unwanted sexual behavior” while on the job, and 28% of those individuals revealed “multiple incidents of harassment.” More staggering is the fact that, according to the report, over one-third of all sexual harassment claims reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are from the restaurant industry. This statistic is even more troubling because only 7% of American women work in that industry.

Unfortunately, as the above report reiterates, victims of harassment don’t frequently report it because they believe they may lose their job, be subjected to retaliation, or even be publicly humiliated.

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What to Do If You Are Sexually Harassed at Work

As an employee, you should never feel powerless if you’re working in a hostile environment. If you’re sexually harassed, you should take the following steps:

  1. Speak Up: Let the harasser know that his or her actions are offensive to you. If the individual continues to harass you, he or she knows that they’ve been put on notice.
  2. Report the Harassment: Inform your supervisor and human resources in writing that you’ve been harassed. If your supervisor harassed you, report it to his or her supervisor. Some companies have procedures for making a harassment claim, so if this is the case, make sure you follow the correct steps when reporting it. In addition, document all incidents of harassment, along with your complaints, including the dates, times, who was involved, and what was said.
  3. Contact an Attorney: If you are unsuccessful in resolving your complaint with your employer, an experienced sexual harassment attorney can determine whether you have a case and help you file a claim with the EEOC and/or the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) and a civil action against your employer as appropriate.

  4. Contact a Florida Sexual Harassment Attorney

    Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., has handled thousands of sexual harassment cases. If you have been sexually harassed on the job, we can help you get the justice you deserve. Contact our office today to schedule your free, confidential consultation. For your convenience, we have locations in Tampa, Orlando, Sarasota, and Miami.

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