Tuesday, August 29, 2023

EEOC busts a quartet of hospitality employers for pervasive sexual harassment

In a press release, the EEOC announced the filing of a series of sexual harassment lawsuits against Las Vegas hospitality employers. 

[The l]awsuits … allege sexual harassment towards employees by owners, supervisors and management, co-workers, and/or customers. The four lawsuits included allegations raised by workers throughout the hospitality industry, from housekeepers in hotels to waitstaff in both high-end and casual restaurants and bars. Allegations included the attempted rape of a young housekeeper, sexual assault, sexual solicitations, sexual comments, inappropriate touching, stalking, and other inappropriate behaviors. 

These lawsuits are consistent with agency's enforcement priorities as outlined in its just-released Strategic Plan, which includes targeting education and enforcement effots to protect vulnerable communities.

If you own or operate any business, including one in the hospitality industry (craft breweries, I'm looking right at you), here are five suggestions to help curb sexual or other harassment from becoming a problem in your workplace.

1/ Create a culture of respect. This starts with ownership, management, and other senior leaders setting a clear example of what is and is not acceptable behavior. Employees should be trained on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it. No employee should ever be punished or otherwise retaliated against for complaining of harassment or otherwise workplace misconduct.

2/ Have clear policies and procedures in place. These policies should define what constitutes sexual harassment and outline the steps that will be taken to investigate and address complaints.

3/ Encourage employees to report incidents of sexual harassment. It is important to make sure that employees feel comfortable coming forward if they experience or witness sexual harassment. This can be done by providing confidential reporting channels and ensuring that retaliation is not tolerated.

4/ Take complaints seriously. When a complaint of sexual harassment is made, it is important to investigate it promptly and thoroughly. 

5/ Provide support to victims. Victims of sexual harassment need support to cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the harassment. This may include counseling or other resources.

As Michael Mendoza, director of the EEOC's Las Vegas Local Office, said, "What happens in Vegas, does not stay silent in Vegas. There are consequences for these actions and the EEOC will not sit by idly as employers allow their workers to be harassed by colleagues, supervisors, and even the customers. This should serve as a wake-up call for employers. The EEOC will hold you accountable for violating federal law." Consider yourself warned.