Female Restaurant Workers Struggle Against Bias, Lack of Pay

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February 15, 2012 ‐ By Charlotte Young

A new study may make you think twice the next time you think about stiffing the waitress because she didn’t refill your water fast enough. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United or ROC United, released the study, “Tipped Over the Edge” on Capitol Hill to highlight gender bias in the restaurant industry. The report found that women face “systematic discrimination, poverty wages, a lack of sick days, and five times more harassment than the general female workforce.”

According to the report, restaurant lobbyists have successfully kept the federal minimum wage for servers and other tipped workers at $2.13 an hour for the past 20 years. This means that the low wage has disproportionately affected women restaurant workers.

Women comprise 52 percent of all restaurant workers, and 66 percent of tipped employees. Men tend to get hired for higher-paying positions such as chefs, even though traditionally women are perceived to do the cooking in the home. In addition, women servers generally work at lower-paying restaurants as opposed to fine dining establishments where they stand to earn better tips. This means that a majority of women in the same position as men end up making only 68 percent of what male servers make in a year. Women restaurant employees also face unpredictable work schedules. This affects their ability to find reliable child care as they are unsure of when they will be available.

Now this last statistic will make you think twice on a lot more than doubling your tips: a whopping 90 percent of restaurant workers report that they do not receive employee paid sick days or health benefits. Unable to afford taking off from work, two-thirds of them report that they are forced to work and prepare or serve food while sick.

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