The $2 billion driving range/sports bar chain where work sounds like hell
New report alleges Topgolf's boozy, "frat boy" culture enables violence, wage theft
The first and only time I’ve set foot inside a Topgolf was roughly 10 years ago, in Dallas, Texas. The “eatertainment” chain was just getting started in the American market after a decade spent honing its driving range-meets-sports bar business model in the United Kingdom. I’m no golfer, but I remember being impressed by the set-up nonetheless: tee box after tee box lined up facing a lush fairway, each with its own designated table for food & drink and a flatscreen array to watch games between drives. Cool idea!
I haven’t given much thought to Topgolf since my hungover visit last decade in Dallas. But a new report on the company’s workplace conditions that make it sound less like a smart, sorta bro-y business idea, and more like a precision-engineered playground for wage theft, exploitation, and sexual harassment and assault. The 25-page report, published last week by One Fair Wage and Survivors Know1, spotlights what its authors describe as “a culture of toxic masculinity, unprofessionalism, and boundary crossing” at 28 Topgolf locations in 15 states. Among the findings gleaned from interviews with 72 workers (quoting here):
54% of all respondents reported being sexually harassed
27% of survey respondents reported being sexually assaulted
100% of Black, Indigenous, and/or Latinx/Hispanic women under 50 years of age reported being sexually harassed
Increased wage precarity resulting in higher incidences of quid pro quo sexual harassment
And so on. The report, titled #STOPGOLF, also includes three graphic and lengthy “survivor stories” from former Topgolf employees (identified by first name, photo, and former employment location), additional graphic anecdotes attributed to unnamed former employees (ID’d by role and location only), quotes pulled from pleadings in 12 legal proceedings against the firm, and more. Topgolf did not respond to Fingers’ request for comment for this story.
One Fair Wage and Survivors Know argue that these conditions are a direct result of the sub-minimum or “tipped minimum” wage (federal law sets this at just $2.13/hour (though some states require higher rates.) Like all restaurants, Topgolf—which was acquired by the Callaway golf brand for $2 billion in 2020 and brought in $418 million in revenue through the first six months of 2021 alone—is legally allowed to underpay its workforce because it’s assumed that they’ll make up the difference (and, ideally, more) in gratuities from customers.