While workers in virtually every industry have experienced sexual harassment, it is especially rampant in the restaurant business. The #MeToo movement has exposed the level of sexual harassment in this field, ending the careers of some top, household name chefs. Now, a restaurant chain, whose founder was one of the worst offenders, is trying to change this toxic workplace culture.
In October 2017, 25 female employees of the Besh Restaurant Group went public with their stories of sexual harassment by the company’s founder, chef John Besh. He, however, was not the only culprit, according to the women. There was a culture in the 17 establishments, operated by Besh Restaurant Group, that permitted male bosses and co-workers to make comments about female employees’ appearances, touch them inappropriately, and, in some cases, proposition them for sex. If female employees complained, they were ignored or berated. Although Besh Restaurant Group employs approximately 1,200 people, the company had no Human Resources department at the time where employees could make formal complaints.
A New Culture as BRG
After an expose by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Besh stepped down as CEO, although he still owns the company. His replacement is Shannon White, a former server. Not only did White have to deal with crisis management, but the revelations about the company’s culture resulted in seven of its restaurants either closing or were sold to other companies. The company renamed itself BRG, and lost approximately one-quarter of its employees through the closings and sales.
White’s new job included investigating the claims of workers alleging sexual harassment, as well as finding out which employees were responsible for the harassment, all while running a major restaurant business. She set up an anonymous tip line, and information left on this line eventually led to the dismissal of 12 workers and four managers. She notes that the change in culture at BRG caused other employees to leave because they realized they would not make it in this new environment.
White also changed many company rules and policies. Out were discounts for employee alcohol purchases, which exacerbated sexual harassment issues. She tried to promote a policy banning employees from dating each other, but realized it was unworkable. Instead, she received feedback from employees and the new Human Resources director on implementing reasonable rules. Other policies evolved, such as how employees could work together in close quarters, such as kitchens, without unwanted touching. Now, when one worker is passing by another worker, they are required to inform co-workers that they are directly behind them. If a customer is behaving inappropriately, the worker should inform the manager immediately.
Cherry Hill Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight for Those Dealing with Sexual Harassment at Work
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you need the services of the experienced Cherry Hill sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Call us today at 215-569-1999 for a free case evaluation or contact us online. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout the state.