Female Waitresses Endure Pervasive Harassment And Lower Wages, Says Report

gender discrimination waitress restaurantRestaurant workers are five times more likely to be sexually harassed than the general working population. Servers are three times more likely to live in poverty, and twice as likely to rely on food stamps. As a new report from the Restaurant Opportunities Center states: "Essentially, many of the workers who serve America its food cannot afford to eat."

The report, "Tipped Over The Edge," was published this week in concert with some of the leading women's advocacy groups in the country, including the Institute for Women's Policy Research, National Women's Law Center, and National Organization for Women.

If you're puzzled by the persistence of the gender wage gap and the higher rates of poverty among women, the report says you only need to look behind the swinging doors of your local Applebees or Olive Garden.

Tipped workers don't get the same minimum wage as everyone else. They get the federal sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, or $4,333 a year for a full-time worker, a number that has been frozen for two decades. Employers are legally required to supplement that wage up to $7.25 an hour if tips don't make up the difference -- but many don't. And because 71 percent of servers are female, the report argues that women bear the burden of this policy.

Women are also more likely to work in more casual dining establishments, with fewer well-heeled guests throwing around twenties. As a result, female servers earn an average of $17,000 a year, compared to $25,000 for their male counterparts, according to the report. That adds up to a difference of $320,000 over a lifetime.

A third of female restaurant workers also lack any kind of healthcare, the reports states, in part because 90 percent of restaurant workers do not receive any health insurance, or paid sick leave, through their employers. This lack of benefits and flexibility is particularly damaging, since over a quarter of female restaurant workers are mothers, and over one in ten are raising their child or children alone.

Sexual harassment and assault are also pervasive in the restaurant industry, according to the report. After all, even Herman Cain, the CEO of the National Restaurant Association and former Republican presidential candidate, allegedly sexually harassed multiple women during his tenure. Thirty-seven percent of all sexual harassment charges to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission come from the restaurant industry, and since only 7 percent of working women are in this sector, female restaurant workers report sexual harassment at five times the rate of the general female workforce.

"The restaurant industry provides opportunities for millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds, to move up the ladder and succeed," said Scott DeFife of the National Restaurant Association in a statement. He points out that nearly half of the country's restaurants are owned by women, and that women make up more than 47 percent of manager positions, compared to 38 percent of managers in other industries. He calls the report's findings "opinion surveys," and not an empirical analysis of the facts."

But particularly when it comes to the workers at the bottom of the ladder, the report insists that policy change is necessary. It recommends providing restaurant workers with job-protected sick days, having employers introduce sexual harassment training, and raising the federal sub-minimum wage to $5.08 an hour (70 percent of the federal minimum wage).

But the restaurant and hospitality industries have strongly resisted change. In 2009, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) introduced a bill to increase the sub-minimum wage to 70 percent of the federal minimum wage by 2012, but its progress was stymied by industry advocates. With little movement on the federal level, however, states have taken the reins. Over half of them have a sub-minimum wage higher than the federal level, and in those states the poverty rate among servers is 14 percent, compared to 19 percent elsewhere, the report notes.

But there remains strong resistance; Republican lawmakers in Arizona are pushing to drop their elevated sub-minimum wage of $4.65 an hour down to $2.53, and also slash the minimum wage of part-time teenage workers by $3 an hour. It appears doubtful that voters will be convinced by the proposal, however, and the pressure for reform is likely to only spread and intensify. According to the National Restaurant Association, 10 years from now there will be 1.4 million more Americans working in the restaurant industry.

Next: 'Hooker Teacher' Forced To Resign, Now Can't Find Work

Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now

Stories from FINS Finance

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Whatever, I have worked side by side with women in tipping positions, I have almost always been complimented on my good work, service and customer relations but still took home about a tenth of the tips as my female counterparts. Although I went out and gained a secure well paying job in the petroleum industry I have yet to earn as much as some female baristas who just show up when they feel like it and smile once in a while.

April 14 2015 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a crock. They should be paying them AT LEAST minimun wage. Employees shold report those who do not.

February 17 2012 at 6:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is so misleading....My sister makes $300 plus a night as a bartender/waitress at Applebee's. I agree her hourly pay sucks and she has no benefits, but that's pretty good cash money for a 25 year old woman working in a lower end restaurant.

February 17 2012 at 5:21 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I read somewhere that in Europe there is no tipping. Waiters and waitresses make a reasonable (don't know who decides what is reasonable) wage, and the cost of the meal reflects what would have been the tip. It seems better - just from a practical viewpoint I do not see why, when I am paying for food, I am also expected to pay extra for someone to bring it to the table. After all, we aren't permitted to go to the kitchen and fetch it ourselves.

February 17 2012 at 5:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most servers receive food stamps because they do not report ALL of the tips that they make. And it is true, that most servers make very low wages, but most take home more than one hundred dollars in tips every day even at diners! What the servers at the high end restaurants make is anyone's guess.

February 17 2012 at 12:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a BS story, I know a lot of waitresses that make more money than some men make doing another line of work. So what do the liberals want now? Do they want a waitress subsidization program payed for by people making over 200,000 a year?

February 17 2012 at 12:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Tips all depend on promtness of service and attitude. The longer I wait for something the less a tip. Also, i shouldnt have to go searching for my waitress/waiter if i want a refill or need something added to the meal.
As far as this article goes, I dont believe its all as bad as made out here. I know tons of people who work in restaurants and they have plenty of tax free money.
I say just pay them straight up and cut the tip out totally.

February 17 2012 at 12:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The only people that want to lower the sub-minimum wage are those that illegally don't pay up to the minimum wage when tips don't cover it.

February 17 2012 at 12:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I think they should make a good pay rate, its not fair for a customer to feel guilty becase he can,t afford a tip ,a tip should be a gift if you can afford it ,not because you expect it. lets say at golden co
rral the waitress only brings drinks in nc. it costs on average of 25.00 If they had a drink fountain they would not need a waitress. I think they should start at minum wage and its really no body business what they make in tips . I ran a plant got christmas tips and others tips for staying late , My company did not question this money I got . and a tip was mine and sometimes I treated my personnel to supper . Since they helped me get that tip.

February 16 2012 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was a short-order cook for several years in high school and college. I finally decided to wait tables just to do something different. I learned two things from the experience. First, a waiter is more likely to get their butt pinched by a table of women, than a waitress is from a table of men. A rather surprising observation back in my younger years. Second, due to the tips, I made twice as much money as a waiter than I did as the lead cook. And, since tips were undocumented, it was tax free! I never cooked for a living again.

February 16 2012 at 11:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rbrown1959's comment

So you committed tax fraud.

February 17 2012 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to valgaavmiko's comment

No different than congressmen failing to pay their taxes.

February 17 2012 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Search Articles

Picks From the Web