16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Erin's story of sexual harassment at work

Blog28 Nov 2022

This week we are marking 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence by shedding a light on sexual harassment in the workplace, sharing the experiences of some of the women in low-paid and insecure work who have been involved in our research and calling for better protections against sexual harassment at work. 

Today we share the story of Erin, an app-based courier. A worryingly high 57% of women and non-binary participants in our research on the app-based delivery sector reported experiencing sexual harassment at work.

Erin's story

TW: sexual harassment

Erin works as an app-based courier delivering food from restaurants to customers through multiple well-known platform companies. She has experienced sexual harassment several times in her work, from customers and especially restaurant staff. 

Like in any kind of hospitality role, you have to deal with just total crap from men, and it’s difficult to challenge. You kind of just have to grin and bear it. 

She has found it difficult to call out this behaviour because she does not want to damage her relationship with the restaurants that are so central to her work or draw attention to herself with the platform company. 

[N]ot only do I not want to push back too much and aggravate the restaurant […] especially when it’s quiet and you’re working in a small place […] but there’s [also] fear of drawing attention to yourself with the company. 

She had previously had her account terminated with one platform company without receiving any explanation and was afraid it would happen again if she complained. 

I’m so scared of drawing attention to myself from [platform company A] at all. I was fired from [platform company B] for no reason that they gave so, because [platform company A] is my main source of income, I’m really scared to draw any attention to myself. 

Having another account terminated would mean even less access to work and lower earnings. 

I don’t really want to burn any bridges on a financial level. 

Erin also did not believe that anything would be done if she did complain or report the harassment. 

And, even if I did, are they going to take me seriously? What are they going to do? 

Not being able to push back against sexual harassment, for instance by boycotting certain restaurants, or report it to the platform for fear of losing work and for lack of mechanisms for doing so, was a serious concern for Erin. 

I think that kind of unequal power balance between us and the restaurant, and us and the company, is so core. And the way that we just can’t take it upon ourselves to take some action, like boycotting or telling them, “Actually, that’s not appropriate, that’s not ok”. That really worries me, because how much of this do we have to put up with? 

Read more about our work on sexual harrassment in the workplace here.