New York, NY – Harvey Weinstein’s day of reckoning may be casting a much-needed spotlight on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry — but it should also be helping to illuminate the long-standing, systemic and entrenched problem of sexual harassment that tipped workers and other female employees in the restaurant industry continue to experience almost daily as a veritable condition of work.
“Alcohol is not sold at the restaurant, but A lot of drunken men and women come into the restaurant and it’s very hard,” Jackson Heights IHOP waitress Maria Rosas told LaborPress in 2014. “They want to touch you, talk to you, get your phone number, whatever. They want more than just the service and the meal. It’s very stressful, but I need the money.”
For tipped workers in the restaurant industry — 70 percent of them women like Rosas— the continued existence of a sub-minimum wage system which allows employees to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour, means that servers must continually turn a blind eye to customer harassment, or risk losing wages no low-paid worker can afford to lose.
“You definitely come across men that try to push that line,” JFK restaurant worker Courtney Walker also told LaborPress in 2014. “But you kind of play the docile role.”
The restaurant industry represents the largest single source of all sexual harassment cases reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year.
And a Hart Research Associates survey issued last fall, found that 40 percent of women working in just the low-wage fast food industry alone, have endured creepy, life-changing harassment on the job.
As LaborPress reported, the situation outlined in the Hart Research Associates survey is so severe, roughly 33-percent of working women of color and 25-percent of white working women, reported taking drastic measures — including cutting hours and even quitting — in an effort to escape ugly abuse that runs the gamut from catcalling to sexual assault.
This week, ROC-United — the Restaurant Opportunities Center — is raising the alarm over Donald Trump’s Department of Labor and its decision to consider new “policies” that would allow bosses to keep tips belonging to employees.
“Trump’s new rule would make millions of women who are already vulnerable to harassment from customers in order to earn their income in tips even more vulnerable to harassment, now from management who would have the right to keep those tips,” ROC-United said in a statement. “And every one of us who eats out would not know whether the hard-earned money we leave for workers in tips is actually going to workers or managers and owners.”
This past summer, the Department of Labor, under the leadership of Donald Trump appointee Daniel Acosta, announced its intention to rescind a 2011 regulation stipulating that tips are the property of employees.
With that regulation gone, female servers struggling to make ends meet could see the mandatory “pooling” of their tips in a National Restaurant Association-supported scheme supposedly meant to “balance” tips between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house workers.
ROC-United’s “One Fair Wage” campaign seeks to dismantle the two-tier sub-minimum wage system entirely, in a sweeping effort to make sure all workers receive the same minimum wage. And women, in particular, do not have to put up with people like Harvey Weinstein in the workplace.