HOUSTON, Texas. More states are considering changing the laws about how tipped workers are paid. According to the Department of Labor, seven states currently require employers to pay tipped workers the state minimum wage. These states are: Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada, and Minnesota. The New York Times reports that New York may soon join their ranks.
Tipped workers in most parts of the country can be paid as low as $2.13 per hour. The assumption is that tips will more than make up for the low wage. In some industries and restaurants this is the case, but not in all. Workers who are paid in tips face unique challenges. Employers might steal their wages or violate wage laws by splitting tips to pay other workers. Workers may not always be aware of their rights and may end up living in poverty because of these wage violations. According to the New York Times, as many as 84 percent of restaurants violated labor laws. Included in these violations are wage violations against tipped workers. In recent years, we’ve seen more multi-million-dollar wage theft settlements won in court when employers stole tips or wages from their workers. So, the courts are starting to consider the rights of workers, and servers in particular. Unfortunately, workers need to take the risk of speaking up if they feel that their rights have been violated. This can be hard to do.
Another reason why some states are considering raising the minimum wage for tipped workers involves sexual harassment claims. Tipped workers may also struggle with reporting sexual harassment. According to the New York Times, tipped workers might be more willing to let sexual comments, propositions, or other harassing behavior slide so that they can earn a tip from a customer. In some cases, customers will ask a waitress for her number before paying a tip, or make lewd propositions with money in hand. Workers may have to balance how far is too far when deciding whether to make the money or report the incident. The Times spoke to servers who noted that they considered some harassment as being part of their job.
The fact is that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees—tips or not. Some restaurants already have policies in place that give servers safe ways to report harassment on the job, but not all do. However, sometimes when servers report harassment, their employers do nothing about it. There aren’t unions for restaurant workers or servers and small businesses may not always have a human resources department that servers can turn to if an issue arises.
So, what can you do if you feel that your employer hasn’t protected you from harassment or is stealing your tips? Consider reporting the incident to human resources or higher management. If you still don’t get a response, consider reaching out to an employment lawyer. Moore & Associates are employment lawyers in Houston, Texas who work closely with workers who believe their rights have been violated or believe their wages have been stolen. Don’t hesitate to protect your rights. Visit us at https://www.mooreandassociates.net/ to learn more today.