How the service industry is trying to address a 'culture of sexual harassment'

The service industry on P.E.I. is trying to tackle a problem they say has been around for years — sexual harassment.

'We really want to shift the culture, we want to change things'

'That's the unfortunate reality of the service industry. If you are a server, it's like there's this understanding, this cultural norm that servers are allowed to be sexualized and that you're entitled to their attention,' says Campbell. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

The service industry on P.E.I. is trying to tackle a problem they say has been around for years — sexual harassment.

Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown introduced a new policy and online campaign this week aimed at tackling the issue.

Maria Campbell, an employee at Upstreet who has worked in the service industry for over a decade, says she's dealt with far too many uncomfortable situations.

"We focused a lot on harassment in the tap room because that seems to be a pretty major issue across the industry …people kind of assume that harassment and sexual harassment in particular is part of the gig."   

'A tangible tool to come forward'

Along with a video the brewery posted on their Facebook page is a new code of conduct that the company expects staff, patrons and suppliers to abide by. It will be posted in the tap room and printed on cards that staff can give to patrons.

I think it's a priority in all parts of the industry right now and everybody is re-looking at their policies — again, you don't want to wait until an incident happens when it's too late.— Kevin Mouflier, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

Campbell said the hope is that these measures stop harassment, or at least make it easier to report it when it happens.

"It also empowers victims of any harassment in our spaces to come forward and say, 'Look, this is in direct violation of the code of conduct that you've laid out,'" she said.

"So it gives them a tangible tool to come forward and speak up to anything that may have gone wrong." 

Campbell says the brewery decided to establish the code of conduct to hold patrons, suppliers and staff accountable. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Industry priority

Carl Nicholson, president of the PEI Restaurant Association, said the majority of its members are also taking a closer look at their policies. 

"This is kind of the next issue that … operators need to get behind and support their staff on getting policies in place that protect employees," he said. 

Upstreet Craft Brewing has also implemented a colour-code system that helps servers and patrons report inappropriate behaviour. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Kevin Mouflier, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said its members have access to HR specialists who can work with businesses to help establish sexual harassment policies and procedures. 

"I think it's a priority in all parts of the industry right now and everybody is re-looking at their policies — again, you don't want to wait until an incident happens when it's too late." 

'We want to change things'

Campbell said Upstreet hopes to turn its code of conduct into a policy kit other restaurants can adopt. 

"We really want to shift the culture, we want to change things."

'I think it's a priority in all parts of the industry right now and everybody is re-looking at their policies, again, you don't want to wait until an incident happens when it's too late,' says Mouflier. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

One of the largest restaurant groups on the Island already has a sexual harassment policy in place and reviews it every six months.

Rachel Vidito, the chief culture officer with Murphy Hospitality Group, said she commends what establishments like Upstreet are doing. 

"I mean in this day and age, this is something that's very prevalent … I have to applaud them and commend them for their actions."

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