DeDe Church

As Interviewed by Sam Church, March 5, 2018

DeDe Church: In Her Own Words

As an employment lawyer, I work to rid America’s workplaces of sexual harassment and discrimination. Harassment has been happening forever -- many, many, many decades. But victims were afraid to come forward, or they weren’t believed, or worse, they were accused of lying. When the New York Times broke the story about Harvey Weinstein being so abusive and harassing to women throughout his career, and that kicked off the MeToo movement, which of course was a social media campaign where women could illustrate that they had also been victims of sexual harassment. And because so many voices started coming together more and more victims felt confident to speak up.

One of the areas that we see sexual harassment a lot is the restaurant industry. It is the number one place for sexual-harassment to occur, in part because servers are majority female and they are working for tips -- so they have to smile even when customers are harassing or when customers grab them or touch them inappropriately.

But one case stands out in my mind. It was a female waitress who was a single mother and, frankly, she probably didn’t have all of her documentation in place and wasn’t born in the United States. So she desperately needed her job at this restaurant to be able to feed her kids and to just survive in the United States. She was really all alone. And the owner of the restaurant figured this out and knew she was vulnerable and desperate, and he really took advantage of her in the most grotesque way and expected sexual favors from her in order for her to keep her job. And this went on for so much longer than it should have, probably over a year. And then last fall she started hearing all the women coming forward and telling their truths, and so she came forward.

When I worked in DC, I worked for a congressman, and he would say really inappropriate things. For example, we had a softball team, and he bought our T-shirts for the office, and he made sure they were white. And he said he would only come to the games if it were to rain so we’d all have on wet, white t-shirts.