Metamorphosis in hospitality: from prostitution to harassment
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Sexual harassment is significantly more common in hospitality than in otherindustries, and has a negative impact on both individuals and workplaces where itoccurs. The New Zealand Human Rights Commission ’s 2001 report on sexualharassment found that 60% of those harassed subsequently leave their place ofwork, indicating a significant cause of staff turnover, and a considerable expenseto employers.The objectives of this study were therefore to identify the incidence and causes ofsexual harassment in hospitality, so recommendations for prevention could bemade to industry practitioners. As part of a wider doctoral study, quantitative andqualitative data from 534 Auckland hospitality workers were analysed, and resultsrelating to sexual harassment identified. Of valid responses to questions on theincidence of sexual harassment, 24% reported they had been harassed, a proportionconsistent with that found in Hoel ’s 2002 British doctoral study. Customer contactwas identified as a strong predictor of harassment, especially for young Europeanwomen and those working in food and beverages service. Harassment was notablyless prevalent where respondents had their own codes of ethics, and where trainingwas perceived as satisfactory.High tolerance of harassment evident in written comments was associated withenjoyment and the nature of the industry, implying a sense of duty and behaviouralnorm extending well beyond limits accepted outside hospitality.Recommendations include the discouragement of behaviours and appearancesassociated with harassment by guests, such as the use of sexuality in employee –customer relationships. Training employees to reject sexual advances skilfully andprofessionally is also recommended, as is promoting harassment-free workplaces toboth guests and staff using codes of ethics, pamphlets, or posters. However, as theroot causes of sexual harassment are may be outside the reach of such preventionstrategies, the discussion also addresses the implications of working in commercialhospitality.The tradition of sexual behaviour in hospitality is therefore addressed, and itsrelationship to the sexual favours provided in pre-Christian taverns, wherebarmaids were also prostitutes. The study concludes that sexual harassment ispervasive in hospitality, in part, because it is perceived as integral to the industryby both staff and customers.