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Netherlands

Teens working in hospitality industry often face sexual harassment

Teenagers working in the hospitality industry often face sexual harassment and don’t know what to do about it. Around 1,200 teens aged 18 or younger told NOS about getting a slap on the butt from a colleague, sexual remarks from customers, or their boss calling them a “slut” all the time.

In most cases, customers are the offenders. “Often when I stand behind the bar, and I ask what a guest wants, they say: ‘You.’ Or: ‘Your telephone number.’ Once someone even offered me 50 euros to go to the toilet with them,” an 18-year-old bartender told NOS. “When it’s busy, and I walk among the guests, my butt is slapped or pinched. I don’t know what to do at that moment, and I laugh it off.”

Sometimes, she tells the guests that they are being inappropriate. “But if I say something about it, nothing changes, and people laugh about it a bit. They do it again the next time, sometimes even five minutes later,” the young bartender said. Her boss also doesn’t intervene. “Sometimes, when things get very intense, I ask my manager to send guests out. But he doesn’t because he thinks it’s not too bad. That’s why I report it less and less because it’s of no use. I feel powerless.”

In other cases, colleagues or even the boss themselves are behind the harassment. “My boss has put her hands on my butt several times when she walked past me,” a 16-year-old boy working in a cafe-restaurant told the broadcaster. “She also makes sexually suggestive comments to me when we all have a drink after closing time. Like: ‘If you weren’t so young and I wasn’t married, I would really do something to you.’ I’m 16 years old, and my boss is in her 40s.” He doesn’t say anything about it for fear of losing his job. “I’m just trying to avoid her as much as possible.”

Jacquiline Twerda of CNV Vakmensen is not surprised by the stories. “You see that there is an informal atmosphere in most catering establishments. You are with a small team, and together, you ensure that guests have a nice evening. But that atmosphere does mean that boundaries are not always respected.”

Addressing inappropriate behavior can be challenging, especially for young employees. “Catering staff are often expected to speak up. That is quite complicated. You don’t have a discussion with a guest on the terrace,” she said. “For many young people, it is their first job, and they do not always know what is appropriate and what is not. If other people around them seem to think it is normal, they think: it is my fault. But it is not their fault.”

About 40 percent of catering employees are school pupils or students working part-time. More than half are under the age of 25.

It is currently not mandatory for catering establishments to have confidential counselors where employees can turn for help with inappropriate behavior. A bill currently in the Senate will, if passed, oblige employers with over 10 employees to appoint such a counselor.

https://nltimes.nl/2023/09/28/teens-working-hospitality-industry-often-face-sexual-harassment Teens working in hospitality industry often face sexual harassment

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