Harassment in the Workplace

I work as a waitress in a small restaurant and nearly all of the Spanish male cooks harass me. The better I’ve become at understanding their accents the more I realize how frequently they make kissing noises at me, call me Baby or other names, give me eyes, and even try to verbally fight over ownership or rights to me. I try to tell them no one owns me in a tough, but half joking kind of way but they all just say “oh okay” and nothing changes. It didn’t bother me so much in the past, but over the last year working there I’ve just become sick of their attitudes and being touched every time I pass by or hand something to them. The female owner of the restaurant has in the past talked about “how a while back there was this ‘thing’ where construction workers got in trouble for cat calling because it was ‘offensive to women'” and I’m not sure if it would even have much impact if I brought up the situation. I’m trying to quit by the end of the month anyway, so I guess I’m wondering if it’s even worth standing up for myself and causing a potential blow up or if I should just make it through the last month and get the heck out.

-Harassed At Work

I would absolutely bring up the situation with your boss. At least to have what is happening documented in some way. You are being harassed and you shouldn’t have to come to expect that kind of behavior at work. You standing up and saying that the behavior is not acceptable may make the difference for the next woman who is hired after you, or any other women that currently works with you. If there are other women that you work with, could you reach out to them? Could you make a stand together?

I worked briefly in food service as well and experienced the same sort of behavior. The staff was almost entirely men and their first language was Spanish. They would often hold impromptu meetings in the kitchen which I could not understand. The same behaviors as you described happened to me, often out in the open. I left shortly afterwards but I still regret not sitting down with the manager and expressing how inappropriate the behavior was.

Harassment in the workplace is worthy of a blow up, in my humble opinion. But I equally understand your hestitations. At the least, I would recommend making your concerns heard in some way at the time of your exit.

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  1. From the sounds of it, this type of social harassment stems from being in groups of guys that find it acceptable to tease, or as they say in Spanish “dar carilla.” Which is basically aimed at making someone uncomfortable to test or flaunt group dynamics. They’re likely even indirectly aimed at inciting a response (even among themselves, and using you as an excuse). In either case, if you’re uncomfortable while working, someone there should be willing to help you solve it.

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