Thunder Bay·Audio

Ontario to fund sexual harassment, violence training for bartenders and servers

The success of a new Ontario government program that will train bartenders and servers to identify and intervene in cases of sexual harassment or violence will depend on how seriously it's taken by restaurant and bar managers, a Thunder Bay bartender said.

Optional training will help hospitality workers identify sexual harassment and violence

A bartender pours a pint of beer. Wednesday, the Ontario government announced funding for training to help bartenders and servers identify and intervene in instances of sexual harassment or violence among employees or patrons. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty)
Andrew McKelvey has worked as a bartender in Thunder Bay for the last fifteen years. He says training to help identify instances of sexual violence and harassment is a good thing 5:39

The success of a new Ontario government program that will train bartenders and servers to identify and intervene in cases of sexual harassment or violence will depend on how seriously it's taken by restaurant and bar managers, a Thunder Bay bartender said.

The provincial government on Wednesday announced $1.7 million in funding over three years to train bartenders and servers to identify sexual harassment or violence, and intervene where necessary.

The optional training will be delivered in partnership with organizations in the hospitality sector, including the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association and Tourism HR Canada.

No timeline is given as to when the training will start, but a representative of the Ontario Women's Directorate said it will be available in-class and online.

Andrew Mckelvey, who's worked as a bartender in various Thunder Bay establishments over the last 15 years, said sexual harassment is rampant in the service industry, and is mainly directed toward female servers and bartenders.

It comes from both customers and staff, including managers, he said.

"Because it's a tip-driven industry ... they feel like they need to take it to make money," Mckelvey said. "It's just an industry where it just goes unchecked."

"The only thing I've ever gotten is 'here's a policy for you to read and sign,'" he said. "'We're not going to put up with any harassment, we're not going to put up with any inappropriate talk between people,' and you walk out of the office after signing it and somebody's going off on someone."

Little protection for bartenders, servers

Mckelvey said there isn't much protection for bartenders and servers if they stand up against harassment, especially if the harassment is coming from a manager.

With customers, they risk losing tips, and with a manager, they can file a complaint, and that can have consequences too.

"You've still gotta work there," he said. "There are a lot of ways a manager can mess with you in that industry."

He said a manager can, for example, reduce the number of shifts a server or bartender gets until they choose to leave, essentially driving them out.

"It's really easy for them to do that and be able to justify it and not be able to prove that they're doing it vindictively," Mckelvey said.

He said the training should be backed by a more effective and more personal way to report incidents of harassment or violence.

"People need to feel like they're talking to somebody, that person hears their concerns, and that person is going to be monitoring the situation to make sure that there's no negative outcome," Mckelvey said. "But that's pretty tough."

"It comes down to people feeling protected."

The province hasn't announced when the training will be available.

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