- As sexual harassment scandals continues to proliferate, a group of Washington, D.C. coffee house workers are training to combat a similar issue: harassment from customers. The problem is so prevalent in the service industry, Voice of America reports, that some employers are bringing in trainers to help facilitate discussions and come up with action steps.
- Volunteers from Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) lead the groups, encouraging service professionals to attend and learn. The D.C.-area non-profit has seen demand for their workshops increase in the wake of the harassment scandals. But they’re also seeing witnesses who continue to be reluctant to step in because they don't have the tools to intervene.
- In Chicago, the prevalence of sexual harassment in the hospitality industry led to the city council's enactment of the “Hands Off Pants On” ordinance in October. The law requires hotels to provide employees who work with customers alone, as in guest rooms or restrooms, a panic button. The portable emergency contact device summons security or management to assist the employee if they are being harassed.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently reported that, after 30 years of mandated sexual harassment training the workplace, progress has been negligible.
Employers are required to protect employees from harassment from customers. But since customers often harass and leave, many businesses are challenged to respond quickly enough to mitigate harm. When managers or coworkers aren’t witnesses to the abuse, many employees feel they have no protection.
For workers in front-facing industries, the problem is even more challenging; workers must balance their need for a harassment-free environment with the need to provide customers positive experiences. More training for staff members to manage the situation, whether as an ally or on their own, should be a training program staple.
The silver lining, meanwhile, may be that service workers are seeking out the training they need to defend themselves and their coworkers.