Hospitality worker lifts lid on harassment

Chloe King wants more hospitality workers to speak out against sexual harassment. Photo:  NZ Herald
Chloe King wants more hospitality workers to speak out against sexual harassment. Photo: NZ Herald

A hospitality worker says the industry is such a "danger zone", some staff are forced to hide in the toilets to avoid sexual harassment.

Auckland woman Chloe King said she has been a victim of harassment for much of her 12-year career. She urged other hospitality workers to speak up and ride the Me Too movement.

"Groping, guys grabbing your ass, a lot of times male customers go in for a hug, they don't ask for permission. Maybe their hands go a bit lower and lower until it reaches your bum. That's quite common," King told Newstalk ZB.

"It's pretty common to see sexual harassment and assault brushed off, not really tackled. You're just told that's the way it is.

"After 12 years of hospitality I'm really exhausted by the fact I can not go into my workplace and feel safe. It almost feels like you're walking into a danger zone."

This comes as the E Tū union shines a light on the blase attitude of some managers towards harassment complaints.

The union says it's fielding calls from workers who've had their complaints ignored by their employers.

The union said victims were being told sexual harassment comes with the territory.

Hospitality Association general manager Rachel Shadbolt said it was unfortunate to hear about managers dismissing concerns as it was a health and safety issue.

Her message to employers who hear harassment complaints was clear - take it seriously, and address it quickly.

King remembers working at a bar in Howick where her two male managers burst into laughter after a regular customer said he saw her running and watched "your tits bounce up and down".

Waiters and bartenders often feel disempowered as they work precarious hours for "poverty wages", which can make it hard to speak out, King said.

"This is not just a stepping-stone job. It needs to get better - it can not remain this way. It's just unfair."

King said it was clear there was an issue if staff had to hide in toilets to avoid harassment, because their workplace doesn't have a zero-tolerance policy.

 

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