Sexual Harassment: It’s Not If, But When

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It is your responsibility as a [bar, nightclub or] restaurant owner to first prevent sexual harassment and/or discrimination. Then, when it does occur, you must take immediate, corrective and remedial action. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is legally required. You must do this because:

  1. it can cost you your business;
  2. you are personally liable;
  3. it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when a sexual harassment claim will be made.


Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To make sure sex discrimination is not allowed in your restaurant, start with a sexual harassment prevention policy and communicate it to all employees on an ongoing basis. Hold training workshops with managers at least annually and immediately after any claims. Cover what your harassment prevention policy is, what their responsibilities are, how to handle a claim, and the legal ramifications.

Lead by example to show the policy cannot be violated. Don’t tell inappropriate jokes if your policy says there will be no inappropriate jokes shared in the workplace.

Provide a way for employees to complain and to not have to complain first to their direct supervisor because the person who may be accused of sexual harassment may be their direct supervisor. NOTE: Going above the restaurant owner’s head is the EEOC!

Policy for Addressing Complaints

When a sexual harassment claim is made the law requires that you take immediate, corrective, remedial action.

Step 1 (IMMEDIATE)—Investigate any claim as soon as it’s reasonably possible. Aim to start the process within a day or two and get a statement from the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, and any co-workers who witnessed the incident.

Step 2 (Make a decision)—Once you have completed your investigation, you are judge, jury and executioner. You have to decide if what was claimed happened or not.

Step 3 (DOCUMENT)—DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! You get the picture.

Step 4 (CORRECTIVE, REMEDIAL ACTION)—Once you have decided if harassment has occurred or not, resolve the situation with an action “reasonably calculated to end the sexual harassment, discrimination, etc.”

Step 5 (Notify)—Notify the complainant what you found and tell them what you have done to end the sexual harassment and make sure it will not happen again, urging the person to continue to communicate as necessary.

Step 6 (Don’t publicize)—Make sure those involved in the investigation, from the managers to the complainant to those interviewed, do not publicize any details of the investigation or incident in question.

Step 7 (Hold meetings)—Hold workshops or meetings with your supervisors and managers to review policies to prevent harassment from happening in the future.

Let this information empower you. No matter how good a job you do, odds are it will happen. Be prepared.

David Scott Peters is not an attorney and relays this information for education purposes as a restaurant consultant, event speaker and founder of, a company committed to the success of independent restaurants. 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show attendees can hear David Scott Peters by attending his “Crucial Food Cost Controls for Maximum Profits” workshop and “Theft Behind the Bar” session. offers an exclusive online restaurant management software designed specifically to meet the complete operational needs of independent operators, including holding their managers accountable and running a profitable business. Combined with one-on-one coaching and group workshops, is helping independent restaurants find success in the highly competitive restaurant industry. Download a free report to discover the #1 secret to lowering food and labor costs and running the independent restaurant you’ve always dreamed of. Learn more about how David can help you at

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