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Activists link low pay for tipped employees to sexual harassment

Restaurant workers have staged rallies throughout the country calling for fair wages for tipped employees. The president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United said that low wages leave servers vulnerable to sexual harassment from customers and co-workers. The organization wants all states to follow the example of California, where employers must pay a higher wage than the federally mandated $2.13 per hour for people who receive gratuities.

In states that set wages for tipped employees above the federal minimum, sexual harassment among restaurant workers drops by half. Women form the majority of tipped employees at 70 percent of workers. Extreme low pay deprives them of power in the workplace. About half of women nationwide work in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives.

The public rallies organized by ROC called on state and local lawmakers to raise minimum wages for tipped employees. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia only require employers to meet the federal standard of $2.13 per hour. This pay rate was established over 20 years ago.

People in many occupations sometimes encounter problems when employers dodge or ignore wage and hour laws. Even among low-wage earners, unpaid overtime and failure to pay minimum wage add up to significant sums. An attorney experienced in wage and hour disputes could represent a person struggling to get paid in accordance with the law. An attorney could gather information about the person's work duties and hours and approach the employer with the information. If the employer refuses to resolve the problem and make a settlement for back pay, then an attorney could alert labor regulators and file a lawsuit.

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