Restaurant workers see spike in harassment during pandemic: report

41% reported a ‘noticeable change in the frequency of unwanted sexualized comments’

The coronavirus has been hard on the food service industry for a multitude of reasons -- including an increase in sexual harassment related to safety protocols such as mask requirements, according to a recent report. 

On Wednesday, One Fair Wage released a study on the impact that the coronavirus has had on service workers. 

In the report, the nonprofit said that aside from not having adequate protection and seeing a decline in tips, many restaurant workers have seen “a dramatic increase in sexual harassment during the pandemic.”

That harassment is made worse by having to ask customers to follow coronavirus protocols like wearing a mask, the report said. 

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“Comments by male customers indicate that they feel entitled to demand that workers remove their protective gear, exposing them to the risk of illness or death, in order to obtain the tips they need to make up their base wage,” the report said. 

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According to the study, 41% of workers said they have seen “a noticeable change” in the amount of “unwanted sexualized comments from customers.” Another 25% said they have experienced or seen a “significant change” in the amount of those kinds of comments.

A new report from nonprofit One Fair Wage has found that food service workers have seen a 'dramatic' increase in sexual harassment during the pandemic. (iStock)

A new report from nonprofit One Fair Wage has found that food service workers have seen a 'dramatic' increase in sexual harassment during the pandemic. (iStock)

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Of the 2,621 service workers who responded to the One Fair Wage survey, 250 shared some of the sexualized comments they have received from customers. 

According to the report, many of those comments were “requests from male customers that female service workers remove their mask so that they could judge their looks, and, implicitly, determine their tips on that basis.”

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Aside from seeing an increase in sexual harassment, One Fair Wage also found that 83% of respondents have seen a decline in tips during the pandemic -- including 66% who said their tips have decreased by at least half. 

About 78% of respondents have also seen an increase in hostile behavior from customers who are asked to follow safety protocols, the report found.  

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