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Women and brews: Harassment in the craft brewery industry

Sexual harassment continues to plague workplaces throughout the United States. Even during a time of increased awareness with the #MeToo movement, workplace culture often fosters one of hostility towards women.

The craft brewery industry provides a recent example. It began with a post on Instagram. Brienne Allan, a production manager at Notch Brewing in Salem, Massachusetts, posted a question: Do you get sexist comments on the job? She had just finished her first day back in the brewery after the pandemic had forced everyone to work from home. During that first day back in her brewery she experienced not one but two demeaning confrontations with contractors questioning her ability to do her job simply because she was a woman.

In turned out Ms. Allan was not alone. Her post led to an outpouring of comments from women who suffered similar experiences and soon went viral. Other victims shared experiences that ranged from name calling to sexual threats. Although Ms. Allan’s post does not lead to direct change, it has clearly spurred a conversation that could help result in more support for the women within the craft beer industry who have endured this harassment.

On a positive note, the attention has caused groups to step up and pledge support for a harassment free environment. The Brewer’s Association released a statement noting it condemns acts of harassment and bigotry, discrimination, and inequity. It has stated it encourages brewers to review and update their procedures and make sure they are educating their staff about the issue.

What options are available for women who are the victim of sexual harassment within the craft brewery industry?

Those within the craft brewery industry may hold their harassers accountable through a complaint with the Brewers Association and local guilds, all of which generally have a code of conduct. According to the Brewers Association, their organization is dedicated to provided harassment free experience. The organization has also put together a webinar series to explore sexual harassment within the craft beer industry and help brewers learn what it is and how to better ensure their breweries are harassment-free.

Sexual harassment within the workplace is more than just a problem, it is illegal at both the national and state level. Here in California, the state defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances or other conduct that leads to an intimidating, hostile or offensive workplace based on the worker’s sex. California state law clarifies that the offensive conduct does not need to be the result of any form of sexual desire. Instead, the fact that it existed and was based on the employee’s actual or perceived sex is generally enough to qualify as sexual harassment.