Shocking Number of Waitresses Are Sexually Harassed at Restaurants

I've always thought waiting tables looked like an incredibly challenging job. You're keeping track of people's orders, balancing plates of hot food and glasses of liquid, delicately navigating a room full of moving diners, and you're doing it all with a smile on your face. But here's something many of us aren't even aware of: A whopping 80 percent of female servers say they've been sexually harassed by customers.

What is wrong with people?!?

So says a jaw-dropping report called "The Glass Floor" by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization focused on improving conditions for restaurant workers. And you can probably guess what the biggest factor is in whether or not waitresses get sexually harassed. Hint: It has NOTHING to do with their anatomy.


It's all about tips. Of the 688 restaurant workers ROC surveyed, the women earning the tipped minimum wage ($2.13 an hour) reported the highest rates of harassment. Naturally. Because you're going to put up with more bad behavior if your very living depends on earning tips.

To those of you who have waited or currently wait tables, this is probably not much of a surprise. You're all too familiar with the dilemma of tolerating gross and sometimes threatening behavior just so you can keep paying your bills. 

And NO, an extra-generous tip doesn't make up for it.

More from The Stir: Mom's Cheap Tip Drives Angry Waitress to Do Something Crazy

For most female diners, this may not seem to be relevant to our lives. I mean, gee, sorry it's so tough for you ladies but I would never, blah blah blah ... But I don't think we should get off so easy. If sexual harassment of waitresses is this high, chances are good it at least occasionally happens in our presence.

At some time or another, we've been on a date or in a group where men were giving their servers "a hard time" -- as they like to call it. (Sounds so much better that way, right? Totally harmless.) Well, maybe we should give men who harass servers a hard time, too! 

It takes some courage, and no one wants to start a fight. But at the very least, we should make it clear we don't think that kind of behavior is acceptable -- I would say no sex for sexual harassers, but that's just me. It's not solely our responsibility to keep men in line (I mean, supposedly they're grown-ups and all). But you never know when speaking up will make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to get called out on their bad deeds to get them to stop.

Have you ever seen your date, husband, or friend sexually harass a waitress? What did you do?


Image © Flint/Corbis

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