UnderCover Waitress: Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC)

An important report by the ROC, "Tipped Over The Edge" was released on Capital Hill on February 13, 2011.

The ROC is a restaurant advocacy group working in nine states, including California and New York. They focus on both employees and employers. They encourage restaurant owners to take the "high road" to a profitable business by valuing and treating employees well. Happy employees who can pay their bills tend to value their jobs; they stick around and work hard in return for being in a good situation.

The ROC looks at racial discrimination in the restaurant industry, gender inequity, and has even suggested unions for restaurant laborers.

Tipped Over The Edge -- Gender Inequity in the Restaurant Industry found that

"...women who work in the (restaurant) industry face systematic discrimination, poverty wages, a lack of sick days, and five times more harassment than the general female workforce."

One reason for the poverty is the low minimum wage for tipped employees. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is still $2.13 per hour. Employers are supposed to ensure that tipped employees make enough in tips to bring home full minimum wage. Instead, many employers tell servers to claim more than they made to avoid paying a tip credit. So waitresses pay tax on income they didn't make.

The report also states

"Seven of the 10 lowest-paid occupations in the United States are restaurant occupations...Servers – of whom 71 percent are female – are almost three times more likely to be paid below the poverty line than the general workforce and nearly twice as likely to need food stamps as the general population."

A female server is five times as likely to file a sexual harassment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) The culture of breastaurants such as Hooters and Tilted Kilt only encourages predatory behavior against women. Hooters Girls are required to sign that they acknowledge that "entertaining" guests and putting up with sexual innuendo is part of their job. They must also state that they do not find this offensive nor harassive.

Among other things, Tipped Over The Edge also discusses the industry practice of allowing or even requiring sick employees to handle food. Very few restaurant workers get sick days and, therefore, can not afford to become ill. When they do come down with a disease, they simply work sick. There are also times when waitresses work sick because they are responsible for covering their own inconsistent shifts. If nobody can cover, they work sick.

Other advocacy groups behind this report include the National Organization for Women, National Coalition On Black Civic Participation’s Black Women’s Roundtable, and others. 


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