Restaurant Servers Are Getting Harassed in Brand New Ways, Thanks to the Pandemic

Customers are asking servers to remove their masks in a nasty new trend dubbed "maskual harassment"

restaurant server wearing a mask
A server who was probably just told to smile by an annoying customer.
Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken so much from so many, but it’s not like it hasn’t given us anything in return. In addition to the newfound anxiety disorders and substance abuse problems bestowed upon many of us, the pandemic has also gifted restaurant patrons a brand new way to harass their servers.

Dubbed “maskual harassment” by the president of One Fair Wage, a server advocacy group behind a recent survey of harassment in the industry, the phenomenon of customers asking servers to pull down their masks is reportedly on the rise.

But why would a customer want their server to remove their face mask, a form of protective gear designed to keep both parties safe from a deadly virus? Why, to see their pretty face of course. And also, apparently, to use the prettiness of that face to determine how much they should tip.

“Women across the country who work in restaurants are being asked to remove their masks so that male customers can judge their looks and therefore their tips on that basis,” One Fair Wage president Saru Jayaraman told NPR. “Every single day, these women are putting their lives on the line trying to serve customers.”

Other alarming comments servers reported hearing from customers included “Pull that mask down so I can see if I want to take you home later,” and “Take off your mask so I can stick my tongue down your throat.”

In addition to the rise in mask-specific harassment, the survey charted an alarming rise in sexual harassment and hostility towards servers in general. More than 40 percent of those surveyed reported a noticeable increase in unwanted sexual comments from customers in recent months, while 80 percent said they’d experienced hostility from a customer for trying to enforce COVID safety measures.

“I think the most horrific thing that honestly all of us who are involved in the study were all blown away by, was the huge increase in hostility and sexual harassment,” said Jayaraman.”We were really shocked with how horrific the situation truly is.”

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