Good Beer Hunting

Humanity in Hospitality

Blindsided or a Blind Eye? — Breweries Struggle to Find Clarity on Workplace Harassment

On July 24, 2017, an email arrived in the inboxes of Joe Davis, COO, and Jenn Vervier, then-director of strategic projects, at New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Fort Collins HQ. The subject line read “Exit Interview,” and the roughly 800-word correspondence, a series of incidents and timelines, were shared with the company, according to its sender.

[Disclosure: New Belgium is an underwriter of Good Beer Hunting’s “Into the Wild” series.]

“I’ve always been very nervous and scared to share any of this information of fear of what it might lead to, including if it leads to nothing,” wrote Chrystean Deck, an almost four-year employee—and employee owner—of the brewery. She specifically stated that she wasn’t disgruntled or seeking any specific response, as she was leaving to teach English in Germany. She added: “I love this place and I cried when I found out I would be leaving.”


“This is less about me and more about the future of New Belgium and whomever is going to take on my position,” she wrote to Davis and Vervier, the latter of whom retired from the company in May 2018. “This is not easy information to share.”

Deck worked as a marketing coordinator for the company’s Tour de Fat events, a nationwide roadshow and festival featuring acting troupes, musicians, and a variety of beer offerings. She outlined eight instances over three years in which a director of her department engaged in workplace behavior she described as ranging from inappropriate to potential sexual harassment. They were all specific to one New Belgium employee—her supervisor, Paul Gruber.

In July 2014, Deck documented her butt being slapped by Gruber. In the spring of 2016, she says he told her to get a “sugar daddy” to help pay off her student loans. On Oct. 20 of that year, she says she was forcibly shown nude photos of an Instagram model against her will. Other instances, according to Deck, include awkward conversations encouraging flirting with men to “cheer up,” and an offer to raise her salary during a review because she needed financial support, as her husband didn’t make enough money as a teacher. There were unsolicited shoulder rubs, too.

Multiple incidents were cited, according to witnesses and co-workers who confirmed to GBH certain aspects of Gruber’s behavior, which they said they also found inappropriate. Separately, Deck tells GBH that Gruber also once walked into a trailer while she was changing, uttering something like, “I almost hit the jackpot” when he realized she was finishing up getting dressed.

This all took place over multiple years, but like a majority of harassment situations, Deck didn’t feel compelled or safe to immediately share her experiences with company leadership. For fear of her job security, and worries about impacting company morale, Deck never reported the occurrences until it was time for her to leave. She says she felt “worthlessness” and “shame” over those years.

“I was rooming with a girl who worked in HR at the time, and I remember thinking, ‘You have to tell her, you have to tell her, you have to tell her,’” Deck tells GBH as she starts to cry. “But if I’m responsible for tearing down Tour de Fat, it’s not going to be fun to work here anymore anyway.”

That feeling is at the crux of the situation. How can companies address issues that can be invisible to management, but critical to their success as inclusive, progressive workplaces? It's a complicated issue that can involve fear and shame, as well as burdens that are often only carried by the victims.

In its new-employee orientation, New Belgium discusses workplace harassment and how to report incidents. Handbooks that are provided to staff members include detailed outlines of definitions and procedures. National and international companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Constellation Brands, and Heineken have all published publicly available standards or guidelines that range from stated workplace values to steps for reporting incidents.

But for the majority of breweries across the country who represent the “small” portion of the Brewers Association’s “small and independent” mantra, crafting detailed HR guidelines and policies may not be so easy. For these companies, revenue and size don’t always equate to dedicated human resources staff members.

The BA tells GBH that it currently does not offer guidelines for HR practices and “recommends each business consult with their local employment councils for guidance.” The trade organization does offer extensive resources for members and non-members alike, ranging from safety training to brewing to cleaning and sanitation, but it doesn’t have immediate plans to create any official documents to address sexual harassment or gender violence, leaving research, adoption, and implementation up to individual breweries.

In the meantime, stories of unexpected harassment, abuse, or questionable behavior are popping up in breweries across the country, and the reactions to and results of efforts to handle them professionally have been mixed. In November 2017, Melvin Brewing Co. dealt with fallout after brewer Kirk McHale allegedly inappropriately touched a server at Menace Brewing in Bellingham, Washington. The event prompted greater discussion around the brewery’s “bro culture” and its impact on others.


This April, Nick Purdy, owner of Avondale Estates, Georgia’s Wild Heaven Beer, hastily worked with law enforcement after a friend of Purdy’s allegedly tried to grab a bartender’s crotch and/or butt. The employee, Dedrick Flynn, filed a police report and posted about the incident on social media. Scott Larimore was arrested about two weeks later for a misdemeanor of simple battery, though criminal charges were ultimately not pursued.

The incident, and the swift reactions both in real life and online, showed a gap in preparation for the brewery. According to details of the police report and reporting by local blog Decaturish, Purdy was at first unsure about the details he should have provided Flynn. Purdy says his business has an HR manual that includes standards of conduct and a disciplinary policy, but that those standards didn’t apply since this particular incident centered on the actions of a patron instead of the actions of any of his 20 employees.

The goal of having this document, and talking to staff about it, is to “put more emphasis on the human element of a workplace as a critical component to our success in general,” Purdy tells GBH.

“We were definitely impacted by the actions of a single patron,” Purdy says. “While the criminal charges against that patron were not pursued by the local authorities, we still learned from the incident and the primary area of learning is to ensure that our staff are better prepared to deal with outlier incidents at the moment they happen.”

The company has since instituted a civil treatment program through Atlanta-based ELI, a workplace consultant firm that “helps organizations solve the problem of bad behavior in the workplace.” Wild Heaven is in the process of having all staff members complete the training, which covers topics of harassment, inappropriate mutual banter, speaking up about workplace issues, and a manager's duty to act in sensitive situations.

“This will remain a permanent part of our onboarding,” Purdy says.

The uncertainty surrounding the proper procedures these breweries should take isn’t out of the ordinary. Sheerine Alemzadeh, co-director and co-founder of Healing to Action, a non-profit that mobilizes worker-leaders to combat gender violence, says that small businesses regularly struggle with these issues. Employers may not be focused on or aware of details related to employee engagement and safety when it comes to gender harassment or violence. Even long-tenured organizations can have trouble with the importance of those discussions if not regularly reinforced.

“In some ways, it’s an opportunity because when you’re starting a culture from the ground up, it’s easier to start with certain shared values, principles and training than to change the culture of a workplace when there are entrenched dynamics,” says Alemzadeh. “Particularly when people don’t feel confident if they come forward to complain about something or feel confident their issues will be taken seriously.”

In recent memory, the beer industry has been host to numerous self-made controversies that run the gamut from the political to the racial. Last September, Atlanta's Monday Night Brewing held a town hall for local journalists to address negative public reaction after a PAC hosted an event at the brewery in support of the then Republican gubernatorial candidate (now Governor) Brian Kemp, who is known for his efforts to suppress voting in the Peach State and for his vocally xenophobic statements. In January, Tacoma, Washington’s Dystopian State Brewing spurred an online backlash when owner Shane McElwrath responded to a patron’s dislike of the company’s beer with a series of homophobic and violent comments.

This fall, Ronkonkoma, New York’s Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage bottle shop stepped in it, advertising the resale of Root and Branch Brewing’s beer, despite the brewery saying publicly it wasn’t meant to reach consumers through that store. Lake Ronkonkoma Beverage then posted a racial slur meant to mock the heritage of the brewery’s two owners.

It was only a few days into 2019 when Portland, Oregon's West Coast Grocery Company (a brewery) received ample local backlash after it said an employee was a victim of sexual harassment. The incident played out over Facebook and Instagram, where the victim, Sarah de Noyo, said a brewer asked her to "show your boobs" and argued about why she shouldn't be upset about such a request. West Coast Grocery eventually issued a response, but not before public backlash and additional details were supplied by commenters—and shared widely.

These kinds of situations have consistently grown out of either naivete, ignorance, or hate, depending on who you talk to. They represent companies’ enduring blind spots regarding who they serve and how they react, creating schisms between management and clientele.

And again, none of this is necessarily out of the ordinary, Alemzadeh says. Small businesses, she notes, are often built around ideas of close-knit teamwork and family. This can make it difficult to publicly identify problem areas, and can create difficult situations for employees who may not feel comfortable raising concerns for fear that they’d be interpreted as disloyalty or attempts to undermine the company. “There’s a lot of pressure to stay quiet or laugh things off that aren’t OK,” Alemzadeh says of uncomfortable or inappropriate workplace behaviors.

Those fears resonated with Chrystean Deck, who didn’t report her experiences with her New Belgium supervisor until leaving the company. Deck says she first went to John Gamlin, the company’s human resources director, and Brian Callahan, the brewery’s director of co-workers and culture, before sending her “exit interview” email to Joe Davis and Jenn Vervier, and ultimately reporting the incidents to the Colorado Civil Rights Division in November 2017. When contacted by GBH to verify status of mediation between Deck and the company, a state representative confirmed the case’s existence but cited confidentiality as a reason not to provide any documentation.

In her conversation with GBH, Deck says that worries about reporting her complaints, and even raising them in the first place, consumed her. She felt compelled to make equivalencies to other forms of harassment or gender violence to tell herself it wasn’t so bad.

“I don’t want to by any means say this is something that is in line with other atrocities, but for me,” she trailed off. “I’m still processing it.”

In a statement to GBH, New Belgium says a final decision from the Colorado Civil Rights Division was reached and that there was insufficient evidence to support Deck’s claims.The state office wouldn’t confirm the case’s outcome and in terms of the brewery’s legal responsibilities, and this verdict is effectively the end of the road. However, the company and its leadership tell GBH it also creates a chance to double-down on efforts to create a safe and welcoming work environment.

In a statement to GBH, New Belgium emphasized that the company cares deeply about all of its employees, and that “cultivating a safe and caring community has been as important to us as making beer.” The company, which has women in positions of leadership, says it has “the utmost compassion for any women or men who may experience workplace harassment, and we are committed to fostering a caring, respectful environment where our co-workers feel safe and supported every single day.”

The company did confirm that Gruber no longer works at New Belgium, and Gruber says his last day was Sept. 4. He lists a new job at Utah’s Park City Mountain that began in November 2018 on his personal Facebook page. Former colleagues tell GBH that he left the company after additional complaints for inappropriate workplace behavior, but New Belgium couldn’t confirm specifics around his departure, citing privacy laws. Gruber also declined to elaborate, but says that he had “positive and professional relationships with most everyone I worked with or interacted with at New Belgium.”

“We do everything we can to make that process open, empathetic and caring,” says New Belgium in an official statement. “In this case, action was taken based on the available facts, yet we are prohibited by law from disclosing the specifics even to the person who filed the initial complaint.”

Speaking on his own behalf, Gruber says instances related to giving unwanted shoulder rubs to Deck or others were a misunderstanding, noting New Belgium's "strong culture of friendly, platonic physical contact." For example, he says that hugs were a common way to greet co-workers, and that morning sessions at company-wide retreats included group shoulder massages during which participants all faced in one direction in order to massage the person in front of them.

"None of the shoulder rubs I gave had any intent, and I would have ceased them immediately if I had been made aware they were unwanted," he says.

He also denies or opposes complaints made by Deck. He says he never touched her butt or made lewd comments toward her, and that showing her nude images on Instagram was a misunderstanding. Both he and Deck practiced yoga in Fort Collins, and he asked if she had seen the instructor's Instagram account, which has more than 800,000 followers and posts "more artful, non-pornographic, images."

The challenge that faced New Belgium then and now—despite a focus on harassment in orientation and three pages of policies in its employee handbook—was creating and maintaining a culture in which employees felt safe reporting these occurrences.

In the #MeToo era, Deck’s experiences and feelings are not uncommon, but simply reporting them is. Despite the fact that at least 25% of U.S. women have experienced workplace harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 75% of incidents still go unreported.

For many, this is seen as an unfortunate and all too common part of working in the service industry. The restaurant industry, for example, employs about 14.7 million Americans, 6 million of whom are female. More than 60% of that workforce have reported experiencing sexual violence on the job. Two-fifths of all federal sexual-harassment complaints come from the restaurant industry alone.

In November 2016, former Bell’s Brewery CEO Laura Bell outlined her own experiences of harassment on All About Beer’s now-cancelled After Two Beers podcast, saying that there are a lot of excuses made in the industry that ignore or even accept inappropriate behaviors and advances.

“The first lesson I learned in brewing was that if you can’t take it when men hit on you, especially men that are your distributors or suppliers or whatever, you’re not going to make it,” she told host John Holl. “So, grow a thick skin, toughen up, you have to tell them to back off. But if you can’t do that, then maybe this isn’t the industry for you.”

She added that conversations about such instances were happening more often, noting it was one of the first things female employees needed to know about working in beer. “What a fucking horrible thing,” she concluded.

In her own reflections on broader workplace challenges, New Belgium co-founder Kim Jordan says that, while it’s important that every member of the company feel safe and supported, there are bound to be blind spots and opportunities for things to go wrong. The company can go so far—training, hiring trustworthy and approachable HR staff, fostering a culture of respect—but those efforts may not be bullet-proof.

“As human beings, we are having a global conversation to create a safer society, free from harassment and discrimination,” Jordan tells GBH, noting that her company and other breweries have a chance to lead on issues of workplace harassment. “This conversation is filled with nuance, confusion, emotion, and what-ifs that make it clear we have more work to do collectively. As craft brewers, we have an opportunity to lead—to be bold—to think of this issue in the same exciting way that we thought of when we were reinventing beer.”

She continues: “Given that so much of our work occurs without direct oversight, there are going to be blind spots and opportunities for things to go wrong. We try to prevent this in a multi-faceted way by fostering a culture of respect and inclusion and giving co-workers the tools they need to navigate messy situations. We provide Crucial Conversation Training for every co-worker to give them the language to raise difficult issues; every manager goes through sexual harassment training; and we employ an approachable team of HR experts to guarantee safety and accountability.

In most cases, these efforts will prevent or address a serious issue and we’ve had instances that show us our efforts are working.”

These conditions can create a difficult reality for businesses, especially those in the beer industry, where entrepreneurs range from first-time owners to long-tenured professionals.

"They wanted to keep the management white, they wanted their clientele to be white, and he was treated differently in the time when it mattered the most—when it affected his job."

So notes attorney Jack Schulz, on behalf of a former Founders Brewing employee, who sued the company last year for alleged racial discrimination. Former manager Tracy Evans claimed that an alleged racist internal corporate structure prevented him from professional advancement, and that race-fueled comments and attempted jokes by co-workers created an uncomfortable work culture for Evans, who is black.

Founders has denied or claimed to have no knowledge of most allegations filed in court, which include Evans being written up for being 1-3 minutes late for work while his white colleagues escaped punishment for similar offenses, as well as references to Evans being passed up for promotions while two white co-workers, who were both directly trained by Evans, advanced in the company. This was allegedly in spite of both employees having committed "terminable" incidents, including crashing a vehicle while intoxicated or exposing genitals to colleagues.


When reflecting on the claims, Founders co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens says the last few months have offered important growth opportunities for his company and the industry. Because so many brewery owners may not have a background running a company, let alone a rapidly growing one, it can be a case of learning on the fly when running a business, even in challenging and unfortunate cases.

"We've always been very inclusive of all and kind of live that way, but just because you think you're living that way doesn't always necessarily mean you are," Stevens tells GBH. "That reality hit us hard. This is a great example of looking at our ability to now take diversity and inclusion to a whole other level because we can lead that charge in the industry."

Among those changes is the hiring of a new human resources position to specifically focus on diversity and inclusion. When the new, full-time employee starts at the end of this month, they'll also take the lead on a series of new discrimination and sensitivity trainings for all employees. It's a needed step, Stevens notes, because the strength of relationships between employees is pivotal to fulfilling ideas of a welcoming team and company culture.

It’s clear that wasn't always easy. One claim that Evans made that Founders did not deny is employees’ use of the word "nigger" to address and describe him. The complaint filed in court says that co-workers approached Evans and used the term asking the question "What’s up with Detroit, my nigger?” and referring to him as "head nigger in charge."

“I really question why employees of Founders that were openly making racially insensitive comments were not immediately terminated from employment,” attorney Matthew McLaughlin, who serves as executive director of the Mississippi Brewers Guild, told Craft Brewing Business in a short analysis of the claim. “That type of behavior should not be condoned or accepted in any way merely through simple write-ups and disciplinary action that lacks any real teeth.”

When Evans told his human resources representative he planned to alert Founders leadership, he was encouraged, according to his legal complaint, not to follow through in order to use work time to finish a project. He was then fired the next business day.

In light of the claims, Stevens and company leadership are instituting changes that include new policies for employees to anonymously file complaints and an increased effort to diversify Founders' workforce. Both came from town hall discussions in recent months, including two all-staff meetings—one at the Grand Rapids HQ, the other at the company’s Detroit taproom—which were also broadcast online for those who couldn't attend.

"It's hard because you go home and lay up at night and think, 'Are we that?'" Stevens says. "Did we screw up somewhere and didn't realize it? Now it's about how do we move things forward so we have the support and trust of all our staff."

In a statement from October, Founders said that Evans' complaint was "filed several months ago, was thoroughly investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and was recently dismissed because it lacked any truth." Evans’ attorney told the Detroit Metro Times that that was untrue—that an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge was filed in September and that the investigation was still ongoing.

"That, along with all of the other things—the derogatory terms, not being promoted, constantly feeling like I had to work harder and feel different from white co-workers—that's what made me want to go this route and give people an idea of what kind of company Founders has become," Evans told the Detroit Metro Times.

Kim Dulic, a public affairs specialist with the government office, says the EEOC can't confirm or deny the existence of charges, as the department is prohibited from such an action.

"Only when and if we file suit—usually a last resort after other outcomes are attempted—are we allowed to furnish any information," she tells GBH.

Evans’ suit wasn’t even the only major incident for Founders last fall. In September 2018, the company announced it would terminate its membership to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce after the organization endorsed Michigan’s attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette, who has taken stances against the LGBTQ community. While the move was lauded by advocates for diversity and inclusion, Founders reversed course a week later under the guise that beer is “nonpartisan.” (Of course, in many ways, it’s not.)

In looking back at the end of 2018, Stevens called the period of time an important "self-discovery" for him personally and professionally. He says it’s more than thinking about how issues of race or gender impact society on a large scale, but in day-to-day interactions. That's where he hopes to grow himself, alongside others in his company and the industry.

"We always need to remember the human element," he says. "The spotlight is on our industry and this issue, which means we have an opportunity to accelerate knowledge and be a part of good change."

The difficulties that Evans and other employees have faced are not unique to beer, but do showcase how important creating safe workspaces can be—both for companies and for workers. Company culture, and the atmosphere it creates, can quickly go from uncomfortable to hateful, depending on perspective. These kinds of stories have two sides, but that doesn’t detract from the feelings one alleged victim might have when circumstances make them feel unwelcome, unsafe, or unwanted.

In December 2017, Helen Yin sent an email to co-workers at Santa Cruz’s Humble Sea Brewing Co. Yin—who had eight years of experience working in the beer industry—left the brewery less than a year after starting as a bartender and occasional keg washer. As Yin documents in a final communication to staff, she felt an insider club mentality was detrimental to the brewery’s success, and made the environment less welcoming for employees. In the note, she cites problems like the intentional over-serving of patrons, unfair staff pay reductions, and aloof behavior from owners Nick Pavlina, Taylor West, and Frank Scott Kruger, all of which created a difficult work environment. She included a list of links to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

In a conversation with GBH, Yin says that she felt her gender and racial background (she’s of Cambodian descent) played a key role in the managerial directions she received, which encouraged her to "be nicer to people" and asked that she change her tone. She recalled one instance in October 2017 where co-workers wanted to post a photo of a dog and beer on a picnic table to social media, but Yin mentioned it would be unwise due to health code regulations, as food is served on site.

"They thanked me for stepping in, but then reprimanded me because they did not like the way I said it," Yin tells GBH, because "it sounded like a mom scolding their child."

In another instance that took place shortly before she left Humble Sea in December 2017, Yin says she was made to feel uncomfortable when an owner shouted across a busy taproom and asked her for the best Chinese food in town. Yin assumed the question was a joke based on her Cambodian heritage, and says that a co-worker looked at her mortified because she "was wondering why he asked only me and not anyone else despite the fact that most of them grew up there and would probably know better than me—who had been living in Santa Cruz for two years at that point.”


Yin also says that she was specifically asked not to discuss topics of race, gender, or creed with co-workers.

When reached for comment, Humble Sea shared a statement with GBH noting that the business strives to be an “inclusive workplace where all our employees feel valued and heard.”

“When issues do come up amongst employees, they are handled promptly and fairly, in accordance with our employment procedures and California law,” the statement read. “We're very proud of the small business we have built, the service we provide our customers, and the culture we've created for our employees. We'll continue to work hard to create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and valued.”

Yin tells GBH that a key reason why she wanted to work in the beer industry was because she doesn’t see a lot of people that represent her background, noting that “I want to make it accessible to people of color and women.” That commitment has made her awareness of gender-related issues acute, especially because she doesn’t want perception of opposition to turn others away. “It’s been my little mission to stay in the industry so people can see it can be a career,” she says, noting that examples like Tired Hands’ diversity internship program give her hope for the future.

At the beginning of this year, Yin moved across the country to New York City, where she continues to work in the industry as a bartender at Brooklyn’s BierWax bar and at Grimm Artisanal Ales’ taproom. She says the presence of Lauren Grimm, who co-owns the eponymous brewery with her husband Joe, has been particularly welcome professionally.

“Having that perspective is really nice, especially someone who can empathize with what it’s like to be a woman in beer,” Yin says.

Yin's experiences at Humble Sea highlight challenges that are not unique to beer. Across many industries, homogenous company leadership can create difficulties when dealing with workplace issues. According to Jennifer Briggs, an educator and advisor for human resources, organizational development, and executive leadership (and former HR director for New Belgium), the simple presence of non-white, non-male management can make a difference in determining company culture, expectations, and how colleagues deal with sensitive topics—especially around gender and harassment.

It’s the same perspective that Healing to Action’s Alemzadeh recommends. She tells GBH that the disconnect in understanding or appreciating workplace worries can be rooted in life experience.

“It’s not that the person isn’t trying or doesn’t care,” she says, “but they don’t have context and can’t relate to what they’re hearing of what happened.”

Whether it’s lack of context or empathy, one current New Belgium employee, who asked to remain anonymous, tells GBH that far too many beer industry professionals turn a blind eye to workplace harassment. The employee, who spoke of multiple unwanted and inappropriate advances made toward colleagues by Paul Gruber, says the unfortunate burden of stopping such incidents often falls on the person who’s on the receiving end of the behavior.

Women are not responsible to prevent sexual misconduct toward them, the employee tells GBH, but in an industry where such behaviors occur daily, there should be greater support systems in place to empower women to call out inappropriateness.

“A lot of these situations are sort of wait it out until it’s over, maybe do nothing, maybe talk to friends, or go to the human resources department,” they say. “But a lot of the reason why it’s handled this way is because people have spent so much time watching nothing get done and seeing no change take place no matter what. You’re going to be discouraged from taking any kind of action.”

New Belgium, long known for its progressive views on issues like sustainability and employee ownership, is not immune to this problem, the employee tells GBH. Despite its outspoken stances on various social issues, internal culture is still “part of the boy’s club” of beer, they say.

“Some of that is on us as a company that maybe hasn’t pursued aggressively increasing diversity among our employees, which is one of the biggest steps toward creating safer workplaces,” they say. “The beer industry as a whole you just don’t have [diversity], but you can try to tell me until you’re blue in the face there’s no qualified candidates and I’ll call bullshit.”

“It began with cisgender, white dudes and we market to cisgender, white dudes, and that’s been the dominant force in the industry since the beginning,” they add.

While knowing that these kinds of incidents are bound to occur, New Belgium’s Kim Jordan says that she and other leaders actively work to make sure employees are aware that they have a voice and can be heard.

“People can feel extremely vulnerable in these situations and that can make it difficult or even frightening to file a report,” Jordan says. “The last thing you want is to hear about an unreported incident as someone is leaving the business because that limits how you can help support that person and bring resolution to him or her.”

Chrystean Deck, the former New Belgium employee, says it was her connection to the employee ownership culture at New Belgium that made her second-guess the value of coming forward, but ultimately it became too important for herself and other female co-workers to stay silent. “What’s worse than telling your story and people going, ‘I don’t care?’” she says. Sharing her experience became something she hoped could ultimately benefit others, if not also shine a spotlight on a blind spot for the company.

Deck still has time left on a contract to teach English in Germany, but hopes to return to Fort Collins in the future.

“I’m not sure if I’ll return, though,” she says, referring to the town itself. “I’m almost quite certain that things in Fort Collins will not feel the same.”

So what, exactly, can be done? Given the systemic issues that surround inappropriate and unacceptable behavior in the service industry, it may not be about wiping out these problems altogether, but the unfortunate reality of chipping away, constantly and consistently. Implicit bias—the way our point of view is unconsciously impacted by our world around us—can make it difficult to recognize and change behavior. But Healing to Action’s Alemzadeh says that this shouldn’t be a roadblock.

“We have to work actively to address these biases, perceptions, inequalities, and feelings of entitlement we all have,” she says. “There are structural issues we’re up against and a spectrum of behaviors can make someone feel really uncomfortable. It’s a responsibility to recognize that.”

Words, Bryan Roth
Graphics, Mike Duesenberg