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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > Are Tipped Employees More Likely to be Sexually Harassed?

Are Tipped Employees More Likely to be Sexually Harassed?


We’ve written in the past about the difficulties that many tipped employees have when it comes to making sure that they get paid the legally required hourly wage, as well as overtime. And about the tricks and tactics that many employers use to deprive tipped employees of what they earn or what they are legally obligated to receive.

But according to a growing body of research, there is another problem that many tipped employees are experiencing, more so than their non-tipped counterparts: sexual harassment.

Study Shows Harassment Increases for Tipped Employees

According to a 2021 study, tipped employees are more likely to be victims of sexual harassment than those employees who are not paid by tips. The study showed that over 60% of employees at restaurants who received tips, reported being sexual harassment victims.

The 2021 study isn’t new—back in 2017, a study in a restaurant trade organization for workers’ rights, showed that 90% of female tipped workers had reported being victims of sexual violence, and that harassment was twice as likely to occur to tipped employees.

And the harassment of workers doesn’t just come from employers—it comes from customers as well, as many employees feel that they “have to put up with” harassment to “earn” a tip, or a bigger tip.

Customers were even found to tip more, based on the facial displays of the tipped employee. The study showed that there was a power element, that many customers felt powerful over the employee, and enjoyed that feeling, and when taken away, the tip amounts decreased.

Tipped workers have told stories about being verbally abused by customers, or having to tolerate language that they ordinarily would never tolerate. Workers report having fear that if they don’t tolerate a hand on them, a “friendly” hug, or other unwanted physical encounters, that their tip would suffer—or worse, that they would be reported to management by the customer.

Employers Look the Other Way

Although employers often are not the actual harassers;  the study found that employers often encourage interactions with customers, and that the employees had positive employment outcomes, the more that they engaged with customers. But by doing this, a tipping environment can make sexual advances seem more  acceptable, or “just part of the job.”

Mostly Service Industries

The increase in harassment for tipped employees came with jobs that are so-called “service with a smile,” and thus, the increase may not apply to all employees. So, for example, a waitress at a sports bar may be encouraged to flirt, laugh, and interact with customers. But a tipped employee who works as a bathroom attendant, or as a valet car parker, may see no increase in harassment despite also being a tipped employee.

And the EEOC has confirmed this, finding that food service and hospitality industry workers face the most harassment for tipped workers.

There’s never an excuse for sexual harassment in the workplace, no matter what your job.  Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today.





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