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Restaurant working conditions and sexual harassment

California restaurant employees who receive tips have a definite advantage over their counterparts in many states due to the fact that they receive the same minimum wage as non-tipped employees. Many states allow a federally-approved base wage of $2.13 for tipped employees, which can put more pressure on those workers to tolerate unwelcome behavior from customers. Although the sexual harassment statistics may be better for restaurant workers in California, the issue of harassment is still a serious concern.

An advocacy group for low-paid workers in the service industry, Restaurant Opportunities Center United reports that 78 percent of female restaurant employees and 55 percent of males have reported being sexually harassed by their customers. This is based on a survey involving 688 workers in 39 states. Workers also face significant levels of offensive sexual comments from coworkers and managers. In fact, two-thirds of female workers and one-half of male workers report having dealt with such behavior from their managers. Managers are also reported to encourage some workers to dress in sexier clothing.

Workers who earn a higher minimum wage may feel less pressure to play along with advances from customers, but those dealing with such behavior from management may worry about the potential impact on their hours or continued employment if they resist. Similarly, reporting adverse behavior might seem frightening due to the potential negative consequences. An employee dealing with such a situation might refer to company policy to determine how to report inappropriate behavior.

If reporting harassment results in unlawful retaliation or the loss of a job, a worker could seek legal recourse against both the company and the individuals involved. A lawyer might suggest that a worker provide a record of actions and responses in the form of a journal, which might be used as evidence in court during a harassment suit.

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