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Sexual harassment in the fast food industry

The sexual harassment of female employees is rampant in fast food restaurants in New York and around the country, according to a report released on Oct. 5 by Hart Research Associates. The firm surveyed 1,217 male and female fast food restaurant workers, and four in 10 of the women polled said that they had been the victims of unwanted sexual advances on at least one.

The women told researchers about lewd comments and inappropriate behavior, and 28 percent of them said that these incidents occurred more than one occasion. The researchers concluded that this kind of behavior often made it very difficult for female employees to perform their jobs, and 42 percent of the women surveyed said that they felt that they had to either accept the harassment or face unemployment. This helped to create a working environment that left women depressed, anxious and feeling trapped according to the report.

The report comes two years after the Restaurant Opportunities Center United referred to sexual harassment in the hospitality sector as a pervasive problem. A study released by ROC in 2014 revealed that 90 percent of restaurant workers, both male and female, had experienced some sort of sexual harassment while at work. The nonprofit organization found that restaurants often had rules and procedures in place designed to prevent sexual harassment, but these policies were rarely enforced and largely ineffective.

The stress and emotional trauma faced by employees who suffer harassment in the workplace may be compounded when they report inappropriate language or sexual advances and nothing is done. Attorneys with experience in this area may be able to help resolve such issues by reminding employers of their responsibilities under federal and state law, but they could also pursue more vigorous legal options should these efforts prove unsuccessful.

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