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RIHA Column: The #MeToo Movement is More than a Hashtag

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.
Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

Dale J. Venturini, President and CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Industry Association.

By Dale J. Venturini, President & CEO, RI Hospitality Foundation

While the #MeToo movement has become synonymous with the entertainment industry, its reach is far deeper than the bright lights and golden statues of Hollywood. From politics, to business, to manufacturing, to hospitality, the potential for harassment exists in every workplace, regardless of the industry. The truth is, as long as people are interacting with other people, there remains the opportunity for varying levels of harassment in the workplace. However, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate these instances and to educate from the top down on what constitutes workplace harassment.

Prior to this worldwide movement, workplace harassment was largely swept aside and in many instances, inadvertently understood as part of the workplace culture. While we can all agree that every industry has its share of “rotten apples” who mindfully harass a colleague, subordinate or boss, the greater issue is a lack of understanding and education as to what constitutes harassment.

There are many forms of harassment in the workplace, and in today’s business environment, the term is much broader than sexual harassment.

Defined, harassment is severe or pervasive verbal or physical conduct that denigrates, shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of some identifying characteristic of that person. While each state is different, some general areas can include:

  • race
  • color
  • national origin
  • sex
  • religion
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status

The hospitality industry is often cited as fertile ground for workplace harassment. I would argue that it is no more or less susceptible to this type of unwanted behavior than any other business environment. However, it does present an opportunity to really take a leadership role in the conversation; something that our industry does very well when challenged with an adverse situation.

We are an industry of second chances, of career path development, of full-time and part-time workers. We are an industry that offers flexibility for parents, students and retired folks. We are leaders, job creators and a vital part of the fabric of our communities. We have an awesome responsibility to do the right thing by the thousands of workers who choose to make a living with us.

Recently, the RI Hospitality Association launched a series of Workplace Harassment seminars, both online and in-person, for members and non-members alike. I’m happy to say that our industry is taking this issue very seriously. Both forms of our educational classes were, and continue to be, well attended.

Headed up by our in-house legal counsel, the classes are tailored to the company’s actual workplace harassment policy and those who attend the private class are taken through a step-by-step process on the policy so that each person is fully educated. Since we launched this initiative last year, we have trained approximately 500 people with additional classes scheduled for this first quarter.

Private, on-site classes can be scheduled for up to 100 attendees or can be activated via a private webinar. To schedule a class or to find out more about the RI Hospitality Association’s commitment to educating against workplace harassment, please call 401.223.1120 or email Sarah Bratko at Sarah@rihospitality.org.

Dale J. Venturini is the President & CEO of Rhode Island Hospitality Association. A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.

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