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Workers' group claims lower minimum increases harassment

New York restaurant workers may be interested in statistics that indicate a high level of sexual harassment claims by women who depend on tips. The problem is especially significant for those who live in states with lower minimum wages are allowed because of the offset of tips. While non-tipped employees are entitled to a federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a lower federal minimum of $2.13 applies to tipped workers in states without a law requiring higher pay.

A representative of Restaurant Opportunities Center, a non-profit group concerned about conditions affecting restaurant workers, says that all states should require the federal minimum to be paid to tipped employees. As the industry's workers endeavor to promote better working conditions and wages, the group reports rampant problems like sexual harassment for women. Industry leaders blame labor unions for spearheading attacks. However, a recent report involving interviews with nearly 700 restaurant workers in numerous states suggests that women working in restaurant settings and depending on tips experience high levels of frightening sexual behavior in that environment.

In states that allow the $2.13 tipped minimum wage, female restaurant employees experience twice the potential for sexual harassment as those in states requiring that the full federal minimum wage be paid. These same women are three times as likely to be told to wear revealing or sexy clothing. Significant percentages of both men and women report suffering sexual harassment from individuals in leadership positions at work.

An individual who has dealt with harassment in a restaurant work setting may feel reluctant to make a formal report due to the concern about possibly losing a job. It may be helpful to meet with an attorney to discuss the situation so that all avenues of relief can be considered.

Source: USA Today, "Group: Sexual harassment rife in restaurants", Bruce Horovitz, October 07, 2014

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