Sexual Harassment in the Fast-Food Industry: Women Bear the Brunt of Illegal Workplace Practice

February 1st, 2024

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Across our nation, women employed at fast-food establishments are frequently experiencing the horrors of sexual harassment, abuse or assault in their workplace. A survey1 conducted by Hart Research Associates reports that 40% of female fast-food workers reported having been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted on the job. The survey, which included polling 1,217 women aged 16 and older who work in fast food restaurants in non-managerial positions, found that two in five women had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment, including sexual assault and rape in their jobs. This pervasive reality in the fast-food industry suggests that operators of fast-food restaurants may be more concerned about profits than safe recruiting practices, hiring practices, training, and staff supervision.

Types of Harassment Experienced
The researchers asked workers whether they had experienced any of the 18 types of behaviors constituting sexual harassment while on the job, including behavior considered part of hostile work environments. The survey found that the most common types of harassment these workers faced included:

  • Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions (27%)
  • Unwanted hugging or touching (26%)
  • Unwanted questions about sexual interests (20%)
  • Sexually suggestive gestures (18%)
  • Kissing or groping (10%)

Further, 8% experienced requests for sex (including in exchange for work benefits), and 2% experienced sexual assault or rape on the job.

Physical and Mental Impacts Suffered
Nearly half of the female respondents who experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse reported health problems that resulted, with more than one-third saying they experienced a greater level of stress on the job and more than 20% saying they feared going into their workplaces. Female employees also reported feeling greater sadness and depression, becoming less productive, and having their sleep and appetite affected.

Although many fast-food chains have sexual harassment policies and procedures, female respondents found such policies and procedures ineffective. Most women who reported sexual harassment or assault to the employer were given only informal responses, including advice to simply avoid the offender.

Finally, one in five of those who reported the sexual harassment found that their employer engaged in various forms of retaliation, including cutting hours, scheduling less desirable shifts, assigning undesirable job duties, denying a raise or promotion, and terminating employment.

Additionally troubling, the survey found that 42% of women who experienced unwanted sexual harassment or assault felt they had no choice but to endure the harassment because they could not afford to lose their job.

Halunen Law attorneys are here to help
If you have experienced workplace sexual harassment, assault or abuse, or if your employer retaliated against you for reporting this conduct, the attorneys at Halunen Law can help.

The attorneys at Halunen Law can guide you through the process of reporting sexual harassment, assault, or abuse to company management or human resources—a process that can be an effective way to address the problem.

Halunen Law attorneys can also help you consider other options for addressing sexual harassment, assault or abuse in the workplace. These include filing a Charge of Discrimination with an appropriate state or federal civil rights office or filing a lawsuit against your employer for monetary damages.

You do not have to face sexual harassment, assault or abuse in the workplace alone. Halunen Law attorneys will stand with you to stop the conduct, protect your right to a workplace free of sexual harm, and fight to receive compensation for what you have experienced. Contact us today to discuss your case.

1https://hartresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Fast-Food-Worker-Survey-Memo-10-5-16.pdf

Brittany Deane Salyers

Halunen Law employment attorney Brittany Deane Salyers skillfully represents labor and employment law clients in litigation, mediation, and complex legal negotiations. She brings compassion, empathy, an acute understanding of the legal system, and fierce determination to defend what’s right.