This past summer, I worked at a restaurant in my neighborhood for a brief amount of time before quitting due to a manager who was abusing his power, disrespecting and harassing his employees. The manager made racist comments to employees, commented on their appearance and made ignorant comments defending the all lives matter narrative. I was a new employee, and although Latinx, I can pass as white and so I didn’t experience the worst of it, but his behavior still made me very uncomfortable. I enjoyed the company of the other woman I worked with, and I was making good money, so I thought I could avoid the situation by not being alone with the manager.
When we did interact, the manager constantly “bumped” into me and touched my back and referred to me as “my love” instead of my name. I overheard him telling my fellow employees that their friends were “hot,” and he made comments about female customer’s physical appearance. I avoided wearing skinny jeans and tried to wear long cardigans, overalls and flowy dresses to prevent any inappropriate behavior or commentary.
Late one night, I received a call from a fellow employee saying she quit, and another employee had been fired. Anticipating long hours with my boss, I asked her if she thought I should quit too. She thought I should, because the manager had made comments to her about my body and it being the reason he hired me. Apparently my resume with previous restaurant experience wasn’t the deciding factor. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t want to seem unprofessional. Ultimately, I knew I would not feel safe working multiple hours with the manager, and I let him know I would not return to work.
Later, I reached out to the owner of the restaurant to let him know about the mistreatment occurring in his restaurant by the manager. He seemed nice, and naturally I thought he would be appalled by this behavior. Unfortunately, the owner of the restaurant responded with intimidation and fear tactics telling me that he would speak to his lawyer first thing, and he recommended I do the same. He mocked my language, and told me he didn’t know how his manager could be racist as he was dating a woman of color. Instead of asking me if I was ok, he used his power to threaten me into not speaking up. I saw the typical victim blaming I had seen in TV episodes or read about play out right before my eyes, but I had never expected to experience it firsthand. The owner said I seemed happy when he saw me at work (in my job training they told me to smile a lot) and he said I only worked there a short time while other employees worked their for years and never complained or left. He also said as soon as this behavior happened I should have come to him. Even though I knew the owner of the restaurant was trying to scare and blame me, it worked. I was terrified. I thought maybe I had made it all up, or I was overreacting. I called my dad in a panic, and we quickly drafted a text to him letting him know I had no interest in pursuing the matter further.
As an aspiring film director, when I heard about the Weinstein incidents, I was not surprised; the behavior I experienced in the restaurant industry exists across all career fields. After I quit this restaurant job, I worked at a restaurant for many months with a woman manager and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe, I had fun.
We need organizations like Platform because it inspires and empowers women leadership, and if we have more women in power we will see less incidents of workplace harassment. We need Platform so that women know what to do in these situations, and so that men in power cannot manipulate them. We need organizations like Platform so that women know they have the right to feel safe in any workplace environment regardless of what they wear. We need organizations like Platform so women know they have the right to call out inappropriate behavior, regardless of whether or not they were smiling.