Harassment and discrimination should never be tolerated in the workplace, and all workers have the right to be free from experiencing such behavior. However, it is an unfortunate fact that harassment and discrimination continues to occur in the workplace and that workers in some industries are more likely to be targeted than others.
Workers in the service industry (those working in hotels, restaurants, retail stores and in private homes) are particularly vulnerable to workplace harassment. There are several reasons why this may be the case, but none of them make the rights of service industry workers any less than other workers. If you believe that you have become a victim of harassment as a service industry worker, it is important that you gain a good understanding of the legal definition of workplace harassment, as well as what you can do to effectively assert your rights in Missouri.
What is the definition of harassment?
Harassment is defined as any unwelcome or unwanted behavior that is intimidating, offensive or humiliating. It may occur once or happen multiple times. In a legal case, the victim may need to show that the behavior was severe enough to create a hostile environment in the workplace. This essentially means that the victim felt uncomfortable or embarrassed at work because of the behavior.
Why are service industry workers disproportionately affected?
There are many reasons why service industry workers are disproportionately affected. First, it's likely that the workers are not protected by a thorough complaints procedure, so they may feel unable to make a complaint without fearing for their job. They may also be unaware of their legal right to make a complaint without being subject to retaliation. In addition, things like overtime, preferred hours and other perks might be handed out more informally than in other industries. This informality can serve as a disincentive to "make waves" by asserting your legal rights.
What can I do to assert my rights?
If you believe that you have been subject to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you should start by making a formal written complaint. If your employer does not take satisfactory action, you may want to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or consider taking legal action.
It is important that you are aware of your right to be free from harassment at work. Make sure that you never tolerate behavior that intimidates you or negatively affects your experience at work.