When I was a college freshman, all new students had to take online courses related to campus diversity and sexual consent. Great in theory, of course, but miserable to trudge through. These PowerPoint-esque courses seemingly hadn’t been updated since 1994, and there was little accountability as to whether a student actually paid any attention or just had a drinking bird click through the presentation.
So while I can absolutely commend the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act recently passed by the city council, my jaded self says that it will take more than an online course to change the disturbing prevalence of harassment in the restaurant industry. Nation’s Restaurant News outlines what the package of 11 bills would mean for restaurants, should Mayor Bill De Blasio sign the bill into law. It would require all businesses, including restaurants, with more than 15 employees to conduct anti-sexual harassment training for all workers annually.
To facilitate this, the bill calls on municipal agencies to create an online training portal—probably similar to the worst webinar you’ve ever endured—and then require employers to collect digital or physical signatures from employees saying they’ve completed the training. Again, just being realistic here, this hardly guarantees peak focus or engagement with the training. What is promising is how many employees would be exposed to the training: NRN reports everyone who works a minimum of 80 hours a year up to management and supervisors would need to complete the course.
On the whole, this bill clearly indicates a move in a positive direction, and it positions New York City as a leader in combating workplace harassment. Restaurants that convey the gravity of this training hopefully create an environment in which harassment and assault are considered intolerable. But forgive me if I’m skeptical that clicking through a few slides will change harassers’ perceptions.