Sexual harassment occurs in every industry, but it tends to be highest in the service industry, especially for restaurant workers and others that depend on tips. There are various reasons why sexual misconduct occurs in this area, and women are more often victims than men are.

Although there are some groups that are working to end sexual harassment in the workplace, there are certain barriers that make it difficult to get rid of.

Potential reasons for sexual harassment in the industry

There are particular reasons why sexual misconduct is so prevalent in restaurants and bars. National Public Radio discusses two of the main ones: The dependence on tips and the need to appear friendly and attractive. Sexual harassment affects both males and females, but female employees who work in the service industry experience it more often, with around 70% reporting that it has happened at least once, and 50% reporting that it happens regularly.

Sexual harassment can occur between colleagues, between a manager and an employee or between a customer and a server or bartender. Because employees depend on tips to make a living, they feel like they must always be friendly and put up with inappropriate behavior. Managers also encourage “service with a smile,” which contributes to the problem.

Unfortunately, working as a tipped employee in the service industry can shape one’s perceptions as to what appropriate behavior is. This can affect future non-service jobs and increase the incidents of misconduct because the individual does not know to speak up.

Barriers involved with eliminating or reducing sexual harassment

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center discusses why it can be more challenging to fight sexual harassment in service jobs. One is that there is male dominance in the industry. This, along with other reasons, contributes to the fact that a manager may not take the accusation seriously or hold anyone liable.

Another issue is that there is an expectation for women to just put up with things and not make a fuss or scene. Alcohol is also a factor in some sexual misconduct encounters, especially in bars and clubs, and many people use this as an excuse.