Report Shows Restaurant Servers Endure Sexual Harassment at Alarming Rates

A report on sexual harassment in restaurants, issued by a pair of advocacy organizations, indicates that a substantial number of restaurant workers experience sexual harassment on the job. The numbers are higher for female restaurant workers, especially servers, but they are alarmingly high for men as well. Restaurant workers reportedly account for 37 percent of all sexual harassment claims received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Tipped workers, including restaurant servers, are subject to different federal and state minimum wage laws. Since servers generally rely on tips for their income, many feel compelled to endure workplace harassment for fear of losing their livelihood.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center United is a nonprofit organization that advocates for “improve[d] wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce.” Forward Together describes its mission as “ensur[ing] that women, youth and families have the power and resources they need to reach their full potential.” The two organizations issued a report entitled “The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry” (the “Report”) (PDF file) on October 7, 2014. The report analyzes data collected from 688 people in 39 states who work or have worked in the restaurant industry.

Overall, respondents reported sexual harassment by managers (66%), co-workers (80%), and customers (78%). The report breaks down various complaints by gender, including female, male, and transgender respondents. Sexual harassment was described as “an uncomfortable aspect of work life” by 60 percent of female and transgender respondents, and 46 percent of male respondents. Report at 2. “‘Scary’ or ‘unwanted’ sexual behavior” was reported by 60 percent of transgender respondents, 50 percent of female respondents, and 47 percent of male respondents. Id.

Under federal law, the minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). Federal law allows employers to include tips in calculating the wages of employees who receive at least $30 per month in tips, which effectively makes the federal minimum wage for tipped employees $2.13 per hour on top of whatever tips they receive. Id. at §§ 203(m), (t). New York’s minimum wage is currently $8.00 per hour, increasing to $8.75 in 2015 and $9.00 in 2016. N.Y. Exec. Law § 652(1). The cash wage payable to tipped food service workers under New York law is currently $4.60 per hour. Id. at § 652(4).

The Report draws a direct correlation between tipped employee wage rates and sexual harassment, finding that workers in states with the lowest minimum wage for tipped employees–female, male, and transgender–reported sexual harassment at higher rates than in states with higher minimum wage laws. The report also found that the effects of this harassment lingered even after leaving the restaurant industry. Women with previous experience in the restaurant industry were reportedly “1.6 times as likely to live with harassing behaviors in the workplace” as current female restaurant workers. Report at 3. “Living with” workplace sexual harassment is defined as “either ignor[ing] or put[ting] up with harassing behaviors” out of a fear of “loss of income from tips, unfavorable shifts, public humiliation, or even job loss.” Id.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of workers in the greater New York City area who have had to endure discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and other unlawful workplace practices. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment Against Famous New York City Restaurant, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 12, 2014
McDonald’s Sued for Alleged Sexual Harassment, Race Discrimination at Queens Location, New York Employment Attorney Blog, August 21, 2014
Lawsuit Accuses Famous Yogi of Sexual Harassment, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 9, 2013

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