Harassment in the Hospitality Industry: Employee Rights and Employer Risk Management

Unfortunately, workplace sexual harassment continues to be one of the most pressing issues facing modern business owners. How can employers safeguard their employees’ rights while also managing risk?

Earlier this month, Kent Employment Law lawyer Trevor Thomas joined lawyer Shea Coulson and Director of Operations at L’Abattoir Restaurant Lisa Haley to share their legal and HR expertise on this complex and timely topic, and offer solutions to employers operating in the hospitality industry.

The seminar’s purpose was threefold: provide an overview of the law on sexual harassment, help employers understand the employee’s perspective, and educate employers about reducing the risk of this conduct in the workplace.

So that all business leaders can benefit from the discussion, we share below Trevor’s top three recommendations for hospitality industry employers:

1. Address the issue immediately and seriously. The #metoo movement has empowered victims of sexual harassment to speak out about this issue. When allegations are made, employers must investigate them promptly and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of their employees in the workplace.

2. Remove liabilities from the workplace. If an employee is committing acts of harassment, the employer must discipline that employee. Discipline may include terminating the employment relationship, even on a without cause basis (in which case severance would be owed). Failing to dismiss the employee in a timely manner may lead to greater liability in the long run, not to mention have a seriously deleterious effect on employee morale and well-being.

3. Create and enforce an anti-harassment policy. Having a robust anti-harassment policy in place will help you mitigate the risk of legal action against the company, as well as create clarity around employee rights and responsiblities. The policy should be available and easily accessible to all employees, strictly enforced, and set out a process for employees to make complaints on a confidential (and non-retaliatory) basis.

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