What To Do if You are Being Sexually Harassed as a Waiter

Let’s face it: Working in the service industry is not easy. When you work as a waiter in a restaurant you have to deal with your coworkers as well as the general public and even though you should expect to work in a safe, secure environment, the unfortunate reality is that bad things can and do happen. Sexual harassment in the workplace is one such example of something you might experience.

Employers are supposed to maintain a safe environment for their employees, but even when everything is going well in the restaurant there is not much they can do to stop a customer from harassing you. However, just because a customer is not part of your company doesn’t mean that he or she will not be punished, and in this case it is your employer’s reaction to the incident that is key in this situation.

Sexual harassment includes a variety of issues including unwanted sexual advances, jokes about gender or at your expense as a result of your gender, requests for sexual favors in exchange for perks or benefits or any other examples of physical or verbal abuse that is sexual in nature. Harassment can take place from a male or female or even between members of the same sex.

Employees are protected against sexual harassment by federal, state and local laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the governing body responsible for overseeing sexual harassment claims against employers. Before you file a claim there are steps that need to be taken if you are a waiter and have been the victim of sexual harassment.

What to do

Reporting an incident of sexual harassment is stressful because as the victim you must relive the incident every time you talk about it. There are steps that can be taken to make things easier for you.

The first thing that you need to do is to gather evidence of what happened so that you can file your report with as much information as possible. Next, you must identify the person or office where you should file your report, and lastly, you might consider speaking with an employment law attorney who can help you understand your options. You have 180 days to file a sexual harassment charge, so it is important to act quickly.

Gather Evidence

Gathering evidence is the most important step in the sexual harassment reporting process because it is up to you as the victim to provide as much information and as many details about the incident as possible. The more details you can provide, the better off you are.

If possible, document everything that happened immediately after the incident so that the details are fresh in your mind. Note the time and day of the incident (or incidents, if there is more than one), and document the names of everyone involved as well as those who were present.

If there were witnesses to the incident, talk with them to see what they saw and heard. Get their names and contact information (especially if the harasser is a customer). Noting the date and time of the incident allows for security camera footage to be obtained of the incident. Also be sure to gather any emails, text messages or voicemails that are tied to the incident, along with other evidence that might be present to support your claim.


Once you have gathered evidence, you need to know who to speak with about the situation.

If the harasser is a coworker or supervisor, then you should speak with human resources. If there is no HR liaison at your restaurant, then you can speak with another manager or the owner of the restaurant. Make sure you note how your report is received, specifically with regard to their reaction to it, and note whether or not corrective action was taken to remedy the situation. If you file a claim and nothing happens, then your next step is to file a claim against your employer. 

If you experience sexual harassment from a customer during your shift, do not wait to report the situation if possible. Step away and talk with your supervisor immediately. Your supervisor or manager should deal with the situation immediately, either by taking you out of the situation or by speaking with the customer. If your employer fails to take action against the customer after you report the behavior, then you have the basis to file a claim because your employer should always take appropriate corrective action when a customer is involved.

Have your case evaluated by an expert

If you are a waiter and you have been the victim of sexual harassment by a fellow coworker and your employer does nothing to remedy the situation, or if you have experienced sexual harassment by a customer and your employer does nothing to take appropriate action in the situation, then the next step is to file a claim with the EEOC or to file a private lawsuit. 

At this point, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced employment lawyer to determine your next steps. Working with an employment lawyer will help to ensure that you receive the maximum settlement possible, which might include lost wages, legal fees and compensation for emotional distress.

Filing a sexual harassment claim is stressful enough, so working with an expert can make the process easier for you while also ensuring that you have all of the evidence you need to build a successful case. Though there is no guarantee that working with an employment lawyer means you will win your case, having an expert on your side greatly improves the chances of a favorable outcome.

Many employment attorneys will meet with you for a free or reduced cost consultation, at which point you will discuss the best course of action for your situation. In many cases employment lawyers will not require payment up front to take your case, and they will work on a contingency basis so that you only pay if you win your case.

To find out how an employment lawyer can help you, fill out a free case evaluation.

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