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Sun Feb 1, 2015, 02:51 AM

How Tipping Helped Make Sexual Harassment the Norm for Female Servers [View all]


While I was writing about sexual harassment of women workers at Ford, restaurant workers reminded me that 37 percent of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims of sexual harassment come from their industry. These dismal stats are connected to how many restaurant workers get paid: tips.

U.S. unions opposed tipping when it first became a thing in the early 1900s, imported by hoity-toity Americans imitating the European rich. Most Americans denounced the dispensing of a few coins to workers as anti-democratic and a reminder of the kind of master-servant folderol we had rejected with King George.

But now the tables are turned, and tipping is much more prevalent in the U.S. than it is in Europe. In some countries, like Australia, it’s regarded as really bad manners. “Who do you think you are, the Queen?” they ask.

What happened? While unions and others tried to outlaw tipping in the early days, restaurant employers saw it as free money. “Workers get paid extra by the customers, so we can pay them less—what’s not to like?” they reasoned.

The mess was codified in 1966 when restaurant and other tipped workers finally got included in the Fair Labor Standards Act. But instead of one fair wage, the law created a second tier: tipped workers who could be paid a subminimum wage.

The restaurant lobby then leaned on politicians to hold the federal tipped minimum wage at $2.13 an hour (the 1991 rate) while the minimum wage rose. Tipped wages had been 50 percent of the federal minimum; now they’re just 29 percent. (The boss is supposed to top it up if $2.13 plus tips doesn’t reach the hourly minimum, but restaurant workers say that doesn’t happen much.)

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Reply How Tipping Helped Make Sexual Harassment the Norm for Female Servers [View all]
eridani Feb 2015 OP
Downwinder Feb 2015 #1
LittleGirl Feb 2015 #2
obxhead Feb 2015 #3
mopinko Feb 2015 #4