On August 8, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Texas-based sports bar Ojos Locos in Albuquerque, New Mexico on grounds of sexual harassment of several employees, including a minor, and retaliation against them when they opposed the illegal misconduct. Similar lawsuits have been filed agains this company in Texas.
According the EEOC, “the women were forced to endure pervasive, unwelcome conduct” including lewd comments, texts, and unwelcome physical touches.” The Commission affirms that the women who complained about the harassment “suffered negative job consequences, such as fewer work hours, unfavorable shifts or changes to work assignments.”
Sexual harassment in the workplace is widespread but is especially high in the food service industry. An analysis from the Center for American Progress found that between 2005 and 2015, hotel and restaurant workers filed more sexual harassment complaints than any other industry. Retail enterprises were close behind.
These findings do not factor in that many employees never complain because of intimidation or fear of being fired for speaking up. High turnover in the restaurant industry makes it is even easier for employers to treat their employees as disposable while dehumanizing and exploiting them.
Although retail and food service industries top the charts in terms of reported sexual harassment complaints, other forms of sexist discrimination are very common and often go unchecked in virtually every industry. At Ojos Locos, the misogyny is more overt, yet their business model is able to thrive because they capitalize on the pervasive sexism embedded in our society which affects women in every field.
In another local example this year, three women professors at the University of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the school after the EEOC found that UNM had been paying these female professors significantly less than their similarly qualified male peers. Their complaints were dismissed by university administrators.
Sexist and discriminatory practices in the workplace continue not only because of the personal prejudices of individuals in the workplace. They are exacerbated by the absence of pressure from the management to transcend or challenge these prejudices. Instead, if anything, these attitudes and behaviors are encouraged and nurtured. Capitalist exploitation underscores the concept that the wage gaps guarantees more profit.. It also reinforces the concept that there is no need to improve conditions for their workers. Similarly, top down criticism of sexual objectification of women’s bodies would mean missing out on the booming market that exists already exists because, as the saying goes, “sex sells.”
The owners and managers who profit off of this exploitation and relish in their freedom to mistreat and harass their women workers face few if any consequences. Whether in the case of sexual harassment, unfair pay or any other forms of sexist oppression, capitalist managers respond to such criticism usually by avoiding any accountability and suppressing the complaints. Many will also exact some kind of retaliation against their victims who complain.. When women speak up about being mistreated, they can more often than not expect to be silenced or punished for doing so.
Despite the attempts at suppressing the issues being raised, the workers at Ojos Locos bravely fought back against such hideous treatment and exploitation. Their struggle against the sexist and oppressive status quo is important for all workers, and we should express our solidarity and support for them and those willing to stand up against it. It provides a clear example of why striving for a socialist economy is so important.