Restaurant sexual harassment higher in tipped minimum wage states

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment by Industry on October 10, 2014

It has long been observed (and studies have confirmed) that women who work in restaurant jobs are at high risk for being sexually harassed. A recent study, however, shows that the problem is even worse than previously reported.

A workers advocacy group called Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United was behind a report entitled “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.” According to the report, sexual harassment is most pervasive in states/jobs where restaurant workers are paid the federal tipped minimum wage (FTMW) and depend on tips to make up the difference.

California is one of just seven states where employers must pay tipped workers (such as waitresses) the full state minimum wage before tips. The other 43 states have laws that either allow tipped workers to be paid the FTMW of $2.13 per hour or have laws that pay a higher tipped minimum wage (than federal) that is still lower than the state minimum wage.

The ROC report says that women who work in jobs that depend on tips (to reach minimum wage) are the most likely to suffer sexual harassment. An astonishing 90 percent of women in this group reported being bothered by some form of sexual harassment at work.

According to the report’s findings, there is a big difference in how tipped workers are treated depending on whether they live in a state like California (full minimum wage before tips) or other states. Compared to full-wage states:

  • Female restaurant workers in FTMW states are twice as likely to be sexually harassed
  • Female restaurant workers in FTMW states are three times as likely to be instructed by managers to wear “sexier” clothing

Women, regardless of their states’ laws, are likely to face sexual harassment just because they are restaurant workers. According to the report:

  • Three-fourths of women were sexually harassed by co-workers on at least a monthly basis
  • Two-thirds of women were sexually harassed by management on at least a monthly basis
  • One-third of women were sexually harassed by customers on at least a weekly basis.

Because this problem is systemic, it will likely take time and dramatic, concerted effort to successfully combat sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. A seemingly good start, however, would be to get rid of tipped minimum wage laws nationwide and ensure that tipped employees earn the state minimum wage and do not rely on tips as income.

Source: USA Today, “( Group: Sexual harassment rife in restaurants,” Bruce Horovitz, Oct. 7, 2014