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Majority of restaurant workers report being sexually harassed

According to a new study, most restaurant workers in Maryland and nationwide say they face persistent sexual harassment by co-workers, managers and customers. The research was conducted by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which is a nonprofit advocate for low-paid workers in the restaurant industry.

For the study, the ROC surveyed 688 current and former restaurant workers in 39 states. The organization found that 66 percent of women and over half of men working in the restaurant industry claimed they experienced sexual harassment from managers. Further, 80 percent of women and 70 percent of men said the were sexually harassed by co-workers. Fifty percent of women, 47 percent of men and 60 percent of transgender employees also reported that the harassment was "scary" or "unwanted." Inappropriate touching was reportedly a common occurrence for 30 percent of women, 22 percent of men and 60 percent of transgender employees.

Those surveyed said that the sexual harassment they experienced included explicit jokes, sexual advances and physical groping. Overall, women reported more incidents of harassment than men. According to the ROC, harassment is worse in jurisdictions that allow restaurants to pay their workers $2.13 an hour, which forces employees to depend on customer tips for the majority of their income. Some poll participants said managers routinely sided with customers when told about sexual harassment.

No Maryland worker should have to endure sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances while on the job. Those who have been subjected to such treatment may want to meet with an employment law attorney to determine if there is any available recourse.

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