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Sexual Harassment- Should You Step In?

by Warrick Steabben on June 19, 2014

Sexual harassment of staff and patrons alike is an unpleasant but almost inevitable reality of the hospitality business, especially when alcohol is involved. You can’t count on it not happening, either; inappropriate behaviour isn’t easy to predict and there’s no specific type of person who does it. People love to flirt, but how can you tell when it’s gone too far and turned into something aggressive and inappropriate? Dealing with sexual harassment among the guests is a responsibility of the staff, but identifying it and dealing with it is not easy.

Talk to the Hand
Talk to the Hand

Why Sexual Harassment Matters

Guests who come to your venue expect to be able to have fun and feel comfortable while there, and nothing kills that feeling like someone who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer or deliberately puts their hands where they don’t belong. Letting it go on will drive guests away and keep them away. If people aren’t comfortable when they’re at your establishment, they will not come back – and they’ll tell their friends why. Consequently, both on an ethical and professional level, stopping harassment from happening unchallenged on your watch is one of a bartender’s or server’s many important duties.

When to Step in and What to Do

You’ve got a whole bar to attend to and you will not be able to can’t catch every drunken grope or every instance of verbal aggression. Sometimes, a guest will come right up to you and tell you that someone else is harassing them and will explain what’s happening. This is the easiest situation to deal with, because it’s one of the few that are black-and-white. If a guest does ask for help, follow your establishment’s rules. In most cases, you’ll tell the security staff to watch the situation and remove the offender if necessary. It’s generally a good idea to tell the offender to stop; either do it yourself or ask your manager to, if that’s the rule at your venue. If you’re being harassed yourself, you’re entirely in the right to deal with it the same way: send a clear message that it’s gone too far.

More often, sleazy behaviour that happens at your bar won’t be directly reported to you. Keep an eye out for signs, both among people who are being harassed and perpetrators. For instance, you might notice one patron behaving skittish around another guest. While that itself isn’t enough to warrant intervention, keep an eye on them. If things start to escalate, step in yourself or get one of the security staff to do it.

Keep an Eye Out for Roofies

the drink aside and tell them what happened. Keep the drugged drink. Then, get the highest ranking person on site involved. It may be time to call the police.

We’re an RSA school, and the responsible part of the Responsible Service of Alcohol matters. Making your guests feel comfortable is part of your job, so add this post to our advice for bartenders. We also understand that this is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with, and a short article can’t cover it. If you want to know more about what you can do, read this report from the Queensland government.