Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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OUR COFFEE WORLD IS IN LARGE PART warm and friendly. We tend to work among people with progressive personal politics, and with innovators and creative entrepreneurs. Our industry's culture values sustainability, philanthropy, and benevolence, and we for the most part support one another and see specialty coffee as a collective mission rather than a cutthroat business. So surely the intensively pervasive plague of sexual-harassment that has been exposed in Hollywood, politics, and beyond couldn't intrude here—or could it? Time to take off those rose-colored glasses, folks: Sexual-harass- ment can happen to, and be committed by, workers of any vocation, professional level, or gender. It's a form of discrimination that vio- lates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that it is unlawful to harass a person in the workplace. However, this federal regulation applies only to employers with more than 15 employ- ees, and even businesses that pass that threshold are not legally required to have an offi cial sexual-harassment policy. We posted some general questions on the topic to Barista Maga- zine's social media accounts and received a wide range of respons- es. Some folks spoke strongly about how important an offi cial policy is, while others' replies served only to make the point that there is much work to be done. A common comment, perhaps meant in a lighthearted tone, was the implication that shops shouldn't need a formal policy beyond "just don't sexually harass anyone." Ours is a broad-minded and informed industry for the most part, and the majority of people working in coffee would agree that sex- ual-harassment is wrong. But does everyone understand what the specifi cs of sexual-harassment even are? And as a café owner, are you aware that you are legally responsible for your staff's behav- ior toward one another? Maybe a barista thinks they're making a harmless joke, or "just fl irting." Maybe a coworker feels they're being nice when they compliment someone's physical appearance. As the business owner and/or manager, your job is to lay out the structure for what's OK and what isn't. Even if your barista doesn't feel what they say or how they act is offensive, if it upsets, angers, frightens, or intimidates their coworker, then it is—period. In researching this article, we were surprised how many inde- pendent coffee-business owners felt it was unnecessary to have a sexual-harassment policy in place: "We have an all-female staff, so we don't need one," said one owner. "I wouldn't hire someone capable of that kind of behavior," said another. "It's common sense," someone else told me. "It would insult my staff to have to explain something so basic." We—along with the lawyers we talked to—are here to tell you that if you're a smart, responsible business owner, you absolutely, 100 percent must have a sexual-harassment policy in place. "I don't care how nice the people who work for you are, or how much you trust them. You could get sued. You could lose everything. I've seen it happen so easily. You simply must protect yourself, your investment, and the people for whom you are responsible," says attorney Calvin Nesbitt, who practices labor and employment law in Ohio's Cuyahoga County and has advised numerous coffee retailers. However, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more than 67 percent of small business owners in the United States don't have a sexual-harassment policy in place. And a 2016 Manta poll on small business sexual-harassment protocols revealed 41 percent of respondents believed that sexual-harass- ment policies were "unnecessary given [their] small number of employees," and 11 percent said such rules were "too PC for [their] company's culture." Make no mistake, however, no matter the size or culture of your company, it is critical for employees to feel protected in their work- space. We spoke with Angela Martin of the National Organization for Women (NOW) about the importance of business owners and managers being in control of the workplace culture in place. "Even if you have a sexual-harassment policy in place, are you sure your employees feel comfortable reporting abuse?" Angela asks. "If the policy is there just for show, it's not helping anyone." Angela pointed us to some guidelines the NOW provides about improving workplace culture: • Create a well-defi ned sexual-harassment policy that includes examples of prohibited behavior. Incorporate the policy into the employee handbook and regularly train and engage employees with the content using different methods. • Create a complaint procedure that identifi es the person on staff designated to document and investigate complaints. This may be a human resources professional or a manager. Explain the investigation process and offer examples of proportion- ate corrective actions that may result at the conclusion of an investigation. • Conduct regular, anonymous climate surveys to ascertain the existing climate of inclusion and identify potential areas for growth. • Empower bystanders: Provide trainings that give employees the skills necessary to intervene when appropriate and report What is sexual-harassment at work? Workplace sexual-harassment is defi ned as unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably inter- feres with the performance of a person's job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. What does it mean to be sexually harassed? Sexual-harassment is defi ned as unwel- come sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical con- duct of a sexual nature when either: The conduct is made as a term or condition of an individual's employment. Can you take someone to court for harassment? If you've been the victim of harassment, you can take action in the civil courts against the person harassing you. You need to make your claim within six years of when the harassment happened. You can still take civil court action even if the person harassing you hasn't been found guilty of a criminal offense. Is it illegal to sexually harass some- one? In most modern legal contests, sexual-ha- rassment is illegal. As defi ned by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis- sion (EEOC), "It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person's sex." Source: (EEOC) 82 barista magazine

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