Anti-harassment policies are practically universal today. Every business, regardless of size, has a policy in place for preventing, rooting out and eliminating harassing behavior among staff and clients alike.

However, it may be the case that some work environments are easier to enforce such policies in than others. For example, while the static, controlled environment of an office complex can make things like co-worker interactions easier to keep track of, a more fast-paced setting like a restaurant or bar can add another layer of challenge to enforcement. Restaurants in particular can be notorious for inappropriate behavior, so restaurateurs should be aware of the risks and how to combat them.

Harassment by the numbers
According to Human Resource Executive Online, an alarming number of servers experience harassment as a near-standard part of the job. The source cited a recent report from advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United which indicated that women were twice as likely to experience harassment at the hands of customers than men were – some 90 percent of women working as servers indicated they’d experienced customer harassment at work.

Unfortunately, the incidents are limited to customers. According to the report, 66 percent of women – and 50 percent of men – stated that they’d been harassed in some way by managers or restaurant owners. This can range anywhere from inappropriate jokes to unwanted physical contact to managers suggesting to employees that they act more suggestively toward customers.

Pay may be a factor
One of the more interesting findings from the report had to do with where harassment was more likely to occur. According to CBS News, harassment was much more prevalent in states where the server’s minimum wage was kept at $2.13 per hour. According to the source, employees who work at such establishments rely more heavily on customers for income, as tips provide the vast majority of their pay. As a result, servers are forced to put up with more from customers than they would if their paychecks weren’t so dependent on customer gratuity.

While stopping harassment from external sources may seem daunting, there are things managers can do from an HR services standpoint to help keep these behaviors in check. For starters, a clearly stated zero-tolerance harassment policy is a first-step HR solution that should be shared with every employee, be they servers or management. Additionally, business owners should work to implement a confidential and safe means for employees to communicate any instances of harassment that may occur, as a means of providing a safe and empathetic atmosphere for those who would otherwise be wary of discussing such things.