New Year’s Resolution for Restaurateurs and Bar Owners

By Allegra A. Jones

As 2017 comes to an end, sexual harassment allegations against celebrity chefs and restauranteurs continue to surface. In the bar and restaurant industry, where alcohol flows like water and employees toil away in close proximity under intense pressure, supervisor and employee misconduct is not entirely surprising.

The news media is covering the consequences of alleged misconduct by celebrity and local chefs, restauranteurs, and TV personalities. They range from Top Chef: Colorado’s decision to edit out New Orleans chef John Besh from an episode of the show, to two major retailers’ pulling of Mario Batali-branded products from their shelves, to a Bay Area bar owner reportedly fleeing the country to avoid charges, as reported by Eater magazine. But, what still needs to be addressed is how to attack the root of the problem.

It is time for businesses across the country to actively discourage a culture in which inappropriate behavior and comments go unvoiced and unchecked. The standards of conduct and behavioral expectations for employees are often set from the top-down. Restaurants and bars should proactively take affirmative steps to discourage and penalize such behavior in the workplace.

In California, here are two easy steps to take:

  1. California employers with five or more employees are required to “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.” (Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(k).)  Developing a clear and legally-compliant employee handbook – and taking steps to enforce the policies in the handbook – are key to fulfilling an employer’s responsibility.
  2. California employers of 50 or more employees are required to provide a two-hour sexual harassment prevention and anti-bullying training to supervisors every two years.  Even if not required by law, restaurant and bar owners should provide, track, and make mandatory for all staff such anti-harassment training.  Implementing a training program is a solid first step in setting professional standards, establishing a workplace that encourages reporting, encouraging victims to come forward without fear of retaliation, and protecting the business from claims that it failed to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Our firm provides in-person, interactive trainings specifically geared toward restaurants and bars regarding harassment, discrimination, retaliation, implicit bias, and workplace sensitivity.  A smart New Year’s resolution is to implement such a training program at your business.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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