By Lexington Wolff Rykaczewski
Avoid Becoming the Next #MeToo Headline
Lexington Wolff Rykaczewski is on a mission to keep restaurant owners out of court.
A former litigator, Lexi knows what a colossal waste of time and money litigation is, so she dedicates her practice exclusively to helping owners prevent employee lawsuits in the first place. In her latest venture, Lexi is tackling the problem that’s long-plagued restaurants and most recently led to the (very public) downfall of some of the industry’s biggest names. We caught up with Lexi to learn more about her Sexual Harassment Prevention Workshop and how it’s helping restaurant owners prevent both lawsuits and falls from grace.
Tell us a little bit about why sexual harassment prevention is so important?
Two words: #MeToo. This movement has been a total game changer for employers. Sexual harassment has always been somewhat of an open secret in restaurants, but the #MeToo movement has really emboldened people to come forward and speak out about it. We’re seeing this play out not only in the courts, but probably more importantly, on social media. And the effect of that can be absolutely crippling to a restaurant.
Chefs are losing their careers, customers are boycotting, and these hard-earned brands and goodwill are just obliterated overnight when they’re connected with sexual harassment. That’s why I’ve made it my mission to help restaurants not only get ahead of something like this and prevent it, but to use those efforts as a platform to actually boost their brands in terms of social responsibility.
How can sexual harassment prevention help to boost a restaurant’s brand?
Employers in this situation are very reactive. They may take small steps here or there toward prevention, but overall, it’s more of an I’ll-handle-it-if-it-happens type of approach. Which is understandable – restaurant owners wear a million hats and sometimes what goes on behind kitchen doors in terms of employee relationships is probably pretty low on the list of priorities. But this movement has become much more than just about what happens behind closed doors. It’s about social responsibility and fair and professional treatment in the workplace. And customers care about that.
This is really an opportunity for restaurants to flip the script and to be proactive about it; to stand up and say, “Hey, this is important to us and we are committed to getting it right, so here is what we have done to prevent it from happening in our restaurant.” It’s not only about doing the right thing from a legal and business perspective, but also about promoting your efforts to do right by your workers. You are not only protecting yourself against sexual harassment occurring, but you’re setting yourself apart from the negativity in the industry and using it to create a positive image around your brand.
What can I expect to get from your workshop?
Sexual harassment prevention is a three-step process.
First, you have to have a solid sexual harassment policy in place. It seems basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many employers try to go off the cuff on this. Your policy needs to be in writing and have critical prevention components, like defining prohibited conduct and explaining reporting and investigation procedures. We start there. I help you develop a strong, legally sound policy specific to your restaurant that’s going to serve as the foundation for how every aspect of sexual harassment is handled going forward.
Second, your employees need to be trained on the policy. This is the part about actually preventing it from happening in your restaurant, and it goes far beyond simply explaining what harassment is. Real prevention requires a change of employee culture, so I work with your employees on how to recognize and confront misconduct, and, equally importantly, on bystander awareness and promoting civility and inclusion.
Third, management needs to be trained on how to handle sexual harassment when they learn about it. This is where the ball most frequently gets dropped and where cases end up in litigation because employers have a legal responsibility to effectively stop harassment. Most of the time management simply doesn’t know how to do that. I work with management to help them understand their obligations and give them specific, step-by-step directives on how to handle a complaint from the moment it comes in until the issue is resolved.
What is the cost for the workshop and how quickly can I book it?
The workshop is a flat rate of $999, which includes a tailor-made sexual harassment policy and full employee and management training. Specialty Group clients (past and present) receive a 10% discount. To book the workshop, contact Lexi at LWR@lexingtonwolfflaw.com.
To learn more about Lexi and her restaurant employment law practice, visit her website at www.LexingtonWolffLaw.com.