We regularly hear news stories of employees suffering sexual harassment in the entertainment, financial and tech industries. And these industries do have a lot of work to do to fix these frequent injustices.
However, studies show that women in some less glamorous industries suffer workplace harassment in even greater numbers. Employees in the food and retail industries suffer the highest rates of sexual harassment, but their stories go largely unreported and unheard.
Why are these workers' stories ignored?
Women working in the food or retail sectors tend to have much lower wages than those working in entertainment or finance. Many women are afraid to report workplace harassment, believing that they will lose their job, and an income that they and their families depend on.
23 new complaints were recently filed against McDonald's
23 women recently stepped forward to report repeated instances of sexual harassment while working at McDonald's. These instances occurred both in franchises and corporate offices across 20 cities and ranged from inappropriate statements to physical touching.
The director of TIME'S Up Legal Defense fund stated that about a quarter of low wage workers in the food industry suffer sexual harassment in the workplace. This can include:
- Inappropriate touching
- Requests for sexual favors
- Lewd or suggestive comments
- Images of a sexual nature
- Offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors
Many women also suffer employer retaliation for reporting these occurrences.
McDonald's responded to the new allegations by promising to strengthen their harassment training, listen to their employees' reports and partner with a third-party hotline to accept harassment claims.
Women must feel empowered to report inappropriate behavior
For the rate of sexual harassment to decline, women must be able to report all instances of harassment without fear of retaliation. Currently, it is estimated that about six percent of incidents are reported. This number must drastically increase for businesses across the food and retail industries to take the sweeping actions necessary to protect their workers.
If a worker faces harassment, she can report the incident to:
- A supervisor
- Human Resources
- An employer's anonymous hotline
No one should feel like they have to silently suffer. All instances of workplace harassment should be immediately reported to the appropriate parties and quickly addressed.