Study: more than 80% of waitresses report sexual harassment


Not to underplay the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, but when 40% of the cases are “inappropriate looks” I have to wonder what bar they are setting on sexual harassment. This looks an awful lot like someone with an agenda ignoring the reality of the situation.

The difference between flirting and sexual harassment can be as little as if the subject finds the person attractive. The article makes it sound like a situation like this would be counted as sexual harassment (under pressure for dates):

Customer: “You’re cute, would you like to go out for some coffee after your shift is over?”
Waitress: “No”
Customer: “Ok”

I’m also annoyed that touching/fondling is lumped in with personal space invasions, as they are not on the same level in my book.


I don’t see how giving them a “fair” wage makes it any better. If a customer is truly sexually harassing you…well they are still the customer. At best the establishment can find someone else to wait on them. Now I suppose a higher wage would allow women to move from restaurant to restaurant more easily, but at the same time I’d suspect that women who are more sexually open (ie flirt more) in restaurants that promote that type of attitude (like Hooters) would make more regardless. Personally you are much more likely to get a great tip is you are good at your job, not by how nice you are to me or how much skin you show.


I do wonder if the (all too common) thing where someone will use their fingers and mouth to simulate a vulva is considered an “inappropriate look”. It certainly isn’t assault, but neither is it a polite invitation for coffee.

When I was a waitress, I was never politely asked out. I was invited to sit on men’s faces on a regular basis, invited to partake of some truly demeaning shit, asked about the taste of my private areas, and told I was frigid when I didn’t take that as a compliment. Only once was I touched (on my boob), and that person was taken outside by another customer and given a black eye. The boss didn’t give a shit one way or the other, but I bought the decent human being a drink. Granted, that was in a bar; no-liquor restaurants were not as bad, for me.

If I ever had to wait tables again (heaven forfend) I would not put up with the kind of asshole behavior that some men feel entitled to display in exchange for tipping. Come to think of it, maybe I’d rather dig ditches.


From ONE point of view, yes. EXACTLY.

It’s not 40% of cases in total: there’s also deliberate touching, pressure for dates, etc. which happen concurrently with the inappropriate looks. Some guy looking you up and down before settling his gaze on your breasts and asking you (without raising his eyes) to sit on his lap or you won’t get a tip is a very normal occurrence for female servers.

That would be the reality of the situation.


In fact, what struck me most about the charts at the link was how tiny the difference was in harassment between “all women workers” and “tipped women workers”. The problem doesn’t stem from the type of wage, it’s almost entirely due to being perceived as female and thus open to harassment.


How about a law+fund where we equip waitresses with cameras and whenever someone acts like a jackass, the clip gets uploaded to youtube.

I’d vote for it, the world needs more public shaming.

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A fair wage won’t automagically get male customers on their best behavior, a fair wage would give these women a chance to speak up. As long as their livelihood depends on the generosity of strangers, they’re not In a position to push back.


So tactful of to use a Hooters pic for the article. WTF

I’d imagine that women at Hooters probably experience this sort of thing a fair amount? Maybe that was the thinking?


I’m kind of confused why you get to set the standard for what everyone should or shouldn’t find appropriate in a work environment… it irritates me when people stare my tits, and that’s “just a look”. the point is that this sort of thing is dehumanizing, even if it’s not “dangerous” and frankly, I think I’m entitled to be treated with a certain base level of respect as a human being, regardless of gender. Does harassment have to rise to the level of personal danger to be a problem? If so, why?


In a way I agree - I don’t think a fair wage would help very much because the real problem here is that some men think it’s totally okay for them to sexually harass women, and those men will still be out there. What drives me instead is that the second part - while true - is acceptable.

If someone is sexually harassing a waitress they should be told their behaviour is unacceptable and be asked to stop. If they persist then they should be asked to leave. I know we “can’t” do that because businesses have to make money, because everything in our entire society is structured around asking the question “who is going to pay for it?” A few dollars trumps both a person’s dignity and the law (unsolicited sexual touching is pretty definitely criminal).

So paying a living wage isn’t going to suddenly cure the problem that there are guys out there who just feel they have the right to sexually harass strangers. Living in a society that has a value of paying people fair wages (or just any sort of fairness) would do a lot to solve the problem.

My toddler kicked me in the chest the other day, and it hurt. If I went to see my doctor for a physical and they asked, “Have you experienced any pain in your chest,” I’d say, “no,” because that isn’t what I’m being asked about.

I feel like you aren’t giving credit to the people being polled that they are equally reasonable. They are being polled about their experiences being harassed at work, they know that. I’m sure a very large portion of men and women who wait tables has had their personal space invaded and has been touched by a customer at some point. But if that personal space invasion was someone inadvisable trying to squeeze past you in a too narrow space on their way to the bathroom, or if that touch was someone accidentally bumping you with their hand while gesticulating as part of their animated conversation, then when you were asked if you’d been inappropriately touched on a survey about harassment, you’d probably say “no.”

If we assume that the people answering the survey were reasonable (that is, both their tolerance for bad behaviour and their ability to differentiate bad behaviour from innocent accidents are what is expected from a random sample of the population) then these problems mostly disappear. If you ask someone, “Have you been targeted by inappropriate looks at work,” they are going to think about the seriousness of the question being asked and discount incidents if they don’t feel like it rose to a level worth reporting.


I was puzzled by that also, until I realized that the ‘graph’ was “All” women workers aggregate in a survey of restaurant employees in the US.
That graph in the fluff-piece was (somewhat misleadingly) not comparing tipped vs non-tipped, but comparing the percentage of tipped with the percentage of tipped+other (all, including group A, which is the vast majority).

If you consider how few front-line female restaurant employees are non-tipped in the US, as a proportion of the whole, that would easily explain the minimal apparent differences shown in that bad graph.
Better graphs and numbers can be found in the full report.

Women restaurant workers living off tips in states where the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour … are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers.

Real numbers should have been tipped vs not, and even then, it’s still a survey of co-workers in the same industry and environment, where the institutional flirt=tips equation applies. It’s not even a comparison between culturally tipped and non-tipped occupations, just between technical tax status across states.

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i’m guessing that around 20% choose “prefer not to comment” 80% seems rather low to me.


My thought exactly - or the 20% think it’s just boys being boys.


Back in the Pleistocene when I was a cook in a pub the waitresses all spoke openly about a direct connection between how ‘sexy’ they dressed and acted, and how much they made in tips.

One women, who was by far the most experienced and skilled server in the place, happened to be older (~35) and a bit heavier than the younger women (~20-25). She usually made about the same total tips as the rest, but probably handled about 5-15% more tables than any of the others. The one or two male waiters were similarly less well compensated (despite being reasonably attractive). They all knew it was bullshit, but seemed to see it as the nature of the job.

I suspect that was partially because it was a pub in Banff, which meant there was a constant stream of people who were there to ‘party’ and act like idiot frat boys. But it was also an aspect of the times, and I hope that things have improved somewhat by now. I doubt it - last time I went to a pub with my old high school friends at least a couple of them were complete douches to the female servers - one of the reasons that was several years ago and isn’t likely to happen again any time soon…

I see I’m 26 minutes too late on bringing this idea to the party.

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I cannot find it for the life of me, but a guy in California with a couple restaurants took one of them off the tipping system. He paid a higher wage, and he said one of the unintended bonuses was the removal of some of the sexual harassment of his waitresses. he wrote a couple of pages on the dynamics of men paying women to serve them, and how skeevy it gets. He said it also removed a lot of other issues, and worked out better in the long run, but I found his discussion on how it reduced sexual harassment the most interesting.


This guy?