The Fear of Losing Your Job Shouldn’t be Punishment for Demanding a Safe Workplace

During Peak Harvey Weinstein, I read an article about why the sexual harassment rates are so high in the restaurant industry.

Like Hollywood actresses, but considerably worse off financially, waitresses endure rampant sexual harassment with impunity.

I’ve never worked in the restaurant industry in any capacity, so I can’t relate to the open, and often aggressive sexual advances vulnerable young women face the moment their shift starts.

But what the above article did do is reawaken a rage I’ve suppressed for a few years now.

From the ages of 19 to 25, I bounced around from one part-time retail job to another to pay for school. I was fortunate enough to never experience any near-daily sexual harassments or assaults, granted I did have customers who made me stop and think “WHAT THE HELL?”

I had one part-time job in particular that showed me very clearly that I was nothing more than an employee number to them. Their whole talk of “family” was a complete farce. I was alone one Saturday when a male customer walked into the store. My gut immediately told me he was trouble. He had bad energy surrounding his unwashed hair and clothes. The only thing protecting me from him during the longest 15 minutes of my life was the cash counter.

He would try to get me to come out from behind the counter by asking me to show him something. My gut told me to stay put. When he knew I wouldn’t move from my place, he just stared at me. His right hand was moving up and down which was an obvious show at masturbating in front of me. He thought he was being clever by hiding what he was doing, but the store had glass cases lined up against the walls. His reflection was on display clearly. It was gross, but there was no mistaking what he was doing.

I told him he was being recorded, I was calling the cops, and to get out.

I reported what happened to the police and to our head office. I was back at work two days later and my manager told me that the people at the head office were making jokes about the incident at my expense. The general message I got was that I should suck it up and laugh it off because I didn’t get hurt.

That was the “AHA” moment I needed to get a proper job. A few weeks later I quit and never mentioned the incident as the reason why.

If I had an ounce of courage I have now back then, I would have blasted my former employers and schooled them on what it means to show support and compassion. Instead, I didn’t want to make a fuss or lose my job. I felt I -not having done anything wrong- had to be the one to leave because I didn’t want to work for assholes.

Why is that?

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