This Coalition is Addressing Sexual Harassment in Canada's Restaurant Industry

Chefs in the kitchen

Every week in the U.S., it feels like a new big-name chef or restaurateur is exposed for misconduct. Mario Batali, John Besh, Mike Isabella, Ken Friedman, and Tom Colicchio are some of the many that have received multiple accusations of sexual harassment in the past. 

Although the #MeToo movement in Canada has yet to reveal as many assaulters, sexual harassment is also a common and ongoing issue at Canadian restaurants.

Renowned chef and co-owner of several popular restaurants, Matt Carmichael was accused last October by three women for sexual harassing them with inappropriate comments. 

To address the sexual harassment problem in the industry, two dozen operators, women’s advocates, and union officials launched Order’s Up, a campaign offering an online platform for food and beverage workers to use to file complaints, along with seminars with sexual harassment training. 

“I suspect that this [the Michael Noble case] is just the beginning of a major trend,” said Shea Coulson, the Vancouver lawyer who is helping to organize the seminars. “The Me Too movement has created a new normative expectation. People who feel they have been harassed are going to be more motivated to actually deal with the issue. There are going to be more allegations, more lawsuits, more criminal charges and a lot of negative press. Is that the reckoning the industry wants? Or is time to be proactive and start solving a problem that has become an epidemic?”

The latest seminar, “Harassment in the Hospitality Industry: Employee Rights and Effective Employer Risk Management” was held in Vancouver. 

“This will enable patrons to support establishments that offer good anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures,” says Erin Gee, a member of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women and the Sexual Assault Network, which is funding the campaign. “We care so much about the food we’re eating in restaurants. Why shouldn’t we also care about the staff who work there?”

The goal of the campaign is to equip operators and workers with knowledge of the best practices, along with an understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities when they are put in precarious situations. 

Read more about how the coalition sexual harassment training at “The Globe and Mail.”