Critical Hospitality Symposium, Critical Hospitality Symposium II: Hospitality IS Society

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Sexual harassment and abuse in hospitality: Keeping the victims quiet
Jill M Poulston

Last modified: 2018-07-02


The abuse of hospitality employees is well-researched, with several studies examining the financial implications of harassment and other abuse, and others attempting to quantify the incidence of various problems. However, and despite extensive research, solution-related causes are elusive, and few studies explore the severity of sexual misconduct in hospitality, or how complaints are resolved.

This small exploratory study of secondary data reviews the causes and effects of harassment in hospitality, before analysing media interviews with hospitality workers who have spoken out about their industry experiences. In contrast to literature that generally finds customers culpable, chefs and managers are revealed to be major predators, and the incidents retold to the media, particularly abusive and unpleasant. Actions taken afterwards reveal a further concern; as most of the predators in this study are supervisors, victims are effectively silenced, having no-one to report their problems to. This important study shifts the focus of blame from customers to supervisors, and therefore begins to answer questions about the deeper causes of abuse, and potential solutions.

Specific reasons for non-reporting of problems are discussed, along with recommendations for future research and practice. Some new strategies for the prevention of sexual misconduct in hospitality are proposed.


hospitality; art; emotion; representation

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