Sexual harassment pervasive in restaurant industry

Workers must rely on customers for tips, and deal with harassment

Advertisement

“Do you have a boyfriend?” “Wanna go on a date, baby?”

 Female restaurant workers experience sexual harassment from customers at twice the rate of their male co-workers, according to a survey released Tuesday by Restaurant Opportunities Center United and Forward Together.

The restaurant industry employs nearly 11 million workers and is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the U.S., according to The Glass Floor report by ROC United and Forward Together. Yet nothing has changed in the restaurant industry.

ROC United and Forward Together surveyed 688 current and former restaurant workers in 39 states.

“All workers in states with a $2.13 sub-minimum wage, including men and non-tipped workers, reported higher rates of sexual harassment,” according to The Glass Floor report.

In Wisconsin, the minimum tipped wage is $2.33, which is 20 cents above federal tipped minimum wage, according to the United States Department of Labor. Restaurant workers make so little, but that is an issue for a different article. After taxes, many workers who are paid a minimum tipped wage are left only with the tips they collect from customers.

“As a result…creating an environment in which a majority female workforce must please and carry favor with customers to earn a living,” according to The Glass Floor report.

Since workers must rely on tips to make it by, they are often subject to inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers and management. Women living off tips are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women who work in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers.

Women who are simply trying to make a living have to deal with sexually explicit offers, comments and gestures from the people who are supporting them. When a worker must rely on customers to make any wage, personal boundaries may be pushed in search of a bigger tip.

According to The Glass Floor report, tipped women are “three times more likely to be told by management to alter their appearance and to wear ‘sexier’ clothing than they were in states where the same minimum wage was paid to all workers.”

No woman should have to alter her appearance, wear less clothing or have to deal with sexual harassment while doing her job.