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Tipped wage may lead to harassment

As New Jersey food servers know, tips are an important way of increasing their hourly income. The tipped minimum wage in many states is $2.13 per hour. Even though employers must make up the difference between this amount and the minimum wage, getting good tips may put the food server in a position to endure sexual harassment on the job.

According to a report by a restaurant workers' rights group, only a small fraction of women work in the industry, but they account for 37 percent of sexual harassment complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The minimum tipped wage is favorable for servers, and tips are non-discriminatory, according to a National Restaurant Association representative. They stress that half of the nation's restaurants are co-owned or owned by women. The minimum wage for tipped workers remains unchanged since 1991, despite Congressional attempts to increase it, largely due to restaurant industry lobbying efforts.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal and not proportionate on the pay scale. However, the difference between making a viable hourly wage and one that is not may allow such harassment to occur.

When workers feel that they are subjected to sexual remarks, innuendo or improper proposals, they have the choice of filing a sexual harassment suit. Proof is sometimes difficult to obtain. In addition, the report stressed that waitressing is oftentimes the initial job young people have and exposure to sexual harassment is daunting for them.

In a similar situation, an attorney may offer insight into options available to an individual who feels they have been illegally harassed. The attorney may review their case and determine if filing a lawsuit is applicable.

Source: CNN Money, "Tip-dependent waitresses endure sexual harassment", Aaron Smith, October 07, 2014

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