Your Server Isn’t on the Menu

For women who make their living off tips, sexual harassment is a constant workplace peril.

By Marjorie E. Wood

Marjorie_Elizabeth_Wood

At a popular sit-down restaurant in Independence, Missouri, Allison waits tables for $3.60 an hour — the going rate for servers at her restaurant.

Advocates of raising the federal hourly tipped minimum wage of $2.13 up to the standard minimum wage — currently pegged at $7.25 — understand that living on tips is difficult. As Allison put it, “There are times when guests have left me one dollar or 50 cents just because they got angry at something.”

Sexual Harrassment and Tipped Workers
No Crop Photo/Flickr

In other words, tipped workers are financially insecure. According to the Economic Policy Institute, tipped workers are more than twice as likely to fall into poverty and nearly twice as likely to be on food stamps as the general population.

But there is another, less obvious, reason to abolish this sub-minimum wage, according to a new report from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC).

Not only are servers like Allison more likely to be poor — they are also highly likely to experience sexual harassment on the job. The new report found that a staggering 90 percent of tipped workers in the restaurant industry are sexually harassed.

Surveying nearly 700 current and former restaurant workers, ROC — in partnership with Forward Together — found that customers, co-workers, and management regularly impose “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” on industry employees.

Women reported experiencing sexual harassment more often than men, with a majority of respondents encountering it on at least a weekly basis. Women were also more likely to say that sexual harassment was “an uncomfortable aspect of the work environment.”

Living on tips means that women — who make up two-thirds of all tipped restaurant servers — are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than on their employer.

This creates an environment, the report says, in which women must “please and curry favor with customers” for their livelihood. Often, that means tolerating unwanted sexual advances. So it’s no surprise that while the restaurant industry employs only 7 percent of American women, it generates more than a third of all federal sexual harassment claims.

Yet the phenomenon varies widely from state to state. Interestingly, the report found that in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers — tipped and non-tipped alike — women were less likely to experience sexual harassment.

In so-called “$2.13 states,” however, tipped women workers were three times more likely to be told by management to “alter their appearance and to wear ‘sexier,’ more revealing clothing” than they were in states that had eliminated the tipped wage. And they were twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that have one minimum wage for all workers.

Men and non-tipped workers were also more likely to report being sexually harassed in $2.13 states.

What does all this add up to?

Eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers would do more than just improve women’s financial security. It would also create a safer, more equitable workplace where servers like Allison won’t have to tolerate inappropriate advances to make a living.

ROC is continuing to collect stories from tipped restaurant workers on its website at rocunited.org. If you’ve ever experienced sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, share your story with ROC.

It’s time to send a message to the industry and to policymakers that servers aren’t on the menu.

OtherWords columnist Marjorie E. Wood is a senior economic policy associate at the Institute for Policy Studies and the managing editor of Inequality.org. IPS-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org

A Win For Workplace Fairness

— by CAP Action War Room, The Progress Report

President Obama Just Announced The Single Largest Expansion Of LGBT Workplace Protections In Our Country’s History

Progress

As many as 9 out of 10 voters believe federal law already protects LGBT workers from discrimination. But it doesn’t. And while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed by the Senate this year, it has stalled in the House; Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has made it clear that there is “no way” ENDA will pass this year.

Enter the latest chapter of the Obama Administration’s “year of action.” The White House announced today that President Obama will issue an executive order requiring that all companies who contract with the federal government must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Think Progress reporter Zack Ford has the details:

The order, expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, is an extension of orders previously issued by past presidents — most recently Johnson — similarly banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin among all contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in business with the government in any one year.

The protections will reach over one million LGBT workers across the country, making it the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in our country’s history. There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 with no protections based on gender identity, but many LGBT workers in those states will now have workplace protections for the first time ever. As many as 43 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

As with Obama’s executive order raising the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors to $10.10, this order will cover an enormous number of people but still relies on Congress to pass a law making sure that millions more LGBT Americans have the freedom to work.

Recently, some LGBT advocates have been giving second thoughts to the current ENDA bill in Congress, based on a religious liberty exemption that could have the potential interpreted too broadly. Here’s Zack Ford again:

The LGBT movement has also become increasingly divided over whether ENDA in its current form is worth pursuing. After two decades of failed consideration in Congress, the bill has been weakened by an exemption that would grant religious organizations unprecedented privilege to continue discriminating against LGBT people. A number of state groups and legal organizations have recently dropped their support for ENDA because they believe that the exemption goes too far and codifies into law the idea that LGBT identities are incompatible with faith. The executive order is thus an important step even if ENDA eventually passes.

BOTTOM LINE: Americans of any sexual orientation and gender identity should have the freedom to work and the right to equal treatment in the workplace. President Obama’s latest executive action is the biggest expansion of those rights in American history. There is more left to be done when it comes to giving all Americans equal protection, and Congress should follow the President’s lead by passing a federal law that ends unfair and discriminatory workplace practices that hurt LGBT workers and their families.

Resources on LGBT Workplace Discrimination:


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

SB192: They Hope You Don’t Care About Reproductive Freedom

A few legislators want to weaken Nevada’s strong laws protecting reproductive freedom, and they’re doing it by claiming they’re protecting religion. The Religious Freedom Preservation bill (Senate Bill 192), which passed in the Senate and is now in the Assembly, would allow health care providers to deny needed services to patients because of their personal views about race, religion, gender, social status, and type of illness or injury.

Should your health needs be subject to a religious test?  That would be a definite, “NO!”

 Tell your Nevada Assemblyperson that health care providers cannot use religion to discriminate against patients.

We’ve asked the supporters of this bill why Nevada needs these so-called religious protections. We have not received an answer. Maybe it’s because religious freedom is currently well-protected under state and federal law. On the other hand, we have seen numerous real-life attempts to use laws like this to deny access to health care in other states:

  • Pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception because it is “dangerous” or “not right” for women
  • Doctors and entire hospitals refusing to terminate pregnancies, even to save the life of the mother
  • A hospital denying HIV medication to a patient because of his sexual orientation
  • Dozens of companies suing to escape the contraceptive provisions of President Obama’s health care program

Health care professionals’ primary concern must be a patient’s welfare. Their job is to provide needed health care services, not to impose their personal, religious beliefs on their patients.

Urge your Assemblyperson to protect access to health care that is free from discrimination. Ask them to oppose this troubling and unnecessary bill.

In liberty,

Vanessa Spinazola
Legislative Director
ACLU of Nevada

GOP Rep. On Sexual Assault At Lackland AFB: There’s ‘No Evidence Of A Widespread Problem’

— By Annie-Rose Strasser on Jul 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Vice-chair of the House Armed Services Commitee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) believes that there is “no evidence” of a serious sexual assault problem at Lackland Airforce Base even though 12 training officers there have been charged or are being investigated for sexual misconduct and there are at least 31 alleged victims of sexual assault.

Today, 78 members of congress led by fierce women’s advocate Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) are calling on the House Armed Services Committee to join the Air Force in investigating the vast allegations of sexual assault at Lackland.

One man has already pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship and is serving 90 days in prison. Another, Military Training Instructor, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker, will be court martialed early next week. According to a press release from Speier’s office, “He faces 28 charges of sexual contact with 10 women including sodomy and rape in technical and basic training.”

According to a local Texas paper, Thornberry doesn’t think it’s a huge issue and is putting his faith in the military to deal with the assaults:

Rep. Mac Thornberry, HASC vice chairman, recently discussed the Lackland issues with Gen. Edward Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command.

“My understanding is there is no evidence of a widespread problem,” said Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon. “It seems to be very limited, and he seems to be moving out very aggressively to deal with it.

If the problem turns out to be limited, then the military system can probably best deal with it, Thornberry said.

Whether the the GOP controlled Armed Services Committee agrees to an investigation, the vice chair’s “no evidence” comment indicates that it will look no deeper into the base than whatever has already been uncovered by the Air Force.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta himself acknowledged the seriousness of the problem, and has issued a new directive to deal with such assaults which includes changing the reporting structure of sexual assault cases.

There were 6,350 reported cases of what the armed forces call “military sexual trauma” last year, but independent studies estimate (PDF) that there were 19,000 cases total last year, most of which went unreported.


This material [article] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.  It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

This article was originally published on ThinkProgress

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/18/2012

Tech Untaxed Report

Tax avoidance by wealthy high-tech firms is on the rise, a new report from The Greenlining Institute finds. Cash held overseas by tech firms rose 21% from 2010 to 2011. Apple’s 2011 tax rate of 9.8% was lower than that of American households making an average of $42,500 per year.

 

Don’t Just Pressure ALEC’s Corporate Sponsors, Name and Shame ALEC Legislators

John Nichols | The Nation: Pressured by a coalition of civil rights, clean government and religious groups to quit their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, multinational corporations are indeed exiting ALEC. Now, it’s time to demand that the 2,000 legislators who have joined ALEC do the same.

Female Veterans Say Military Kicked Them Out And Classified Them As ‘Crazy’ After Reporting Sexual Assault

The U.S. military seems to be trying to deal with its troubling pattern of sexual assault cases after a story that ran this weekend on CNN detailing cases of women in each branch of the military who were diagnosed with a mental disorder and dismissed from the military after filing a sexual assault or sexual harassment complaint.