5 Ways Training Can Help Prevent Sexual Harassment in your Restaurant

In the #MeToo era, one of the key issues facing restaurant owners and operators is how to more effectively prevent sexual harassment and improve workplace culture. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other workplace experts advocate taking a holistic approach, which includes implementing an interactive sexual harassment training program.

Consider these five ways a modern approach to harassment training can help the fast-casual industry prevent harassment and foster a safe, respectful workplace culture.

1. Increases awareness

An important part of preventing harassment is awareness. Through training, employees can learn to recognize the different types of harassment — there are many subtle forms — and understand what and when conduct crosses the line. Online harassment training tailored to the restaurant industry helps increase awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behavior through realistic video scenarios, images, terminology and other interactions that reflect the environment and culture employees work in.

2. Reinforces policies

Training on a regular basis also provides opportunities to reinforce anti-harassment policies and the organization’s complaint processes — key components of a holistic approach. A written anti-harassment policy should clearly communicate that all forms of sexual harassment and discrimination are unacceptable and illegal and explain the formal complaint procedures. Training should also emphasize that employees who speak up are protected against retaliation from supervisors and co-workers.

3. Teaches prevention techniques

Bystander intervention is considered one of the most effective ways to empower employees to stop harassing behavior and prevent future incidents. Training employees on bystander intervention techniques — how to disrupt, confront, support and report — provides the tools and motivation to speak up, while also showing support for a co-worker. In addition to bystander intervention, harassment training should cover other conduct-related topics, such as diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and workplace civility.

4. Promotes a respectful culture

Preventing harassment and changing workplace culture is a long-term process that starts at the top and involves all departments and employees — at every level. Training can and should play an active role in improving workplace culture by providing restaurant employees with the knowledge, skills and practical steps to prevent harassment and create a respectful, inclusive workplace.

5. It’s the law

Since 2018, several states have passed new laws that require employers to train their workforce on sexual harassment prevention, including New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware, Illinois and soon Rhode Island. New York employers have until Oct. 9 to train all employees and managers and then retrain them on an annual basis. California employers with five or more employees have until Jan. 1, 2020 to train both supervisors and nonsupervisory staff, and then retrain every two years.

The spotlight on #MeToo is an opportunity for organizations to take positive steps to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and transform workplace culture. Implementing regular, interactive training that’s customized for the restaurant industry can help move the conversation from awareness to action to prevention.

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