How Tipping Your Waitress Is Tied To Sexual Harassment

Illustrated By Julia Sadler.
Tipping is a pain. Everyone hates the awkward ambiguity of the practice — the fear of tipping too little, the resentment of tipping too much even when your service is bad. Now, there's a much better reason to call for the end of tipping and it's coming from advocates for waiters themselves.

To be clear, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United doesn't say it wants to end tipping, but the organization is campaigning to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers to be the same as everyone else's. As it stands now, most state laws allow the minimum wage for such workers to stand much lower ($2.13 versus $7.25), assuming that tips will raise them to the minimum. Employers are supposed to make up the difference if and when tips don't, but they have little enforcement to do so, ROC says. The issue goes beyond economics, too, as the organization believes that tipping is part of the reason four out of five women in the food service industry are sexually harassed by their customers, according to an ROC survey.

"When you live off the tips, you have to tolerate whatever the customer might do to you, however they might touch you or treat you or talk to you, because the customer is always right," ROC cofounder and co-director Saru Jayaraman told The Guardian. "The customer pays your bills, not your employer.”

In the ROC survey, women were twice as likely to report being harassed in states where the minimum wage is lower for tipped workers than in places such as California, where there the minimum wage is the same for all employees, tipped or not.

The National Restaurant Association, which represents restaurant owners, has been fighting back against calls to raise the minimum wage, claiming that higher minimum wages will force restaurants out of business altogether.

Meanwhile, an experiment is underway in New York City. Danny Meyer is eliminating tipping at his restaurants, beginning with The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art. If his customers show they're willing to pay higher prices to include "hospitality," the idea may one day trickle down to everyday chains.
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