We Need To Talk About Sexual Harassment in Tip-Based Jobs

coffeehouse-2600877_1920When H was 23, she worked as a server at a restaurant known for its brunch menu. One morning, she told me, she was in the kitchen making coffee with another employee who was prepping eggs. “He was maybe—ten feet away from me,” she said. H asked him how his weekend had gone, and in response, “he crossed the room, kissed me, and then went back to his spot and answered my question.”

She mentioned the incident to a male server, who dismissed it, but later, the man who kissed her was fired, after harassing and assaulting other female members of the staff. “It didn’t occur to me to mention it to anyone higher up,” H said. “I thought it was the kind of thing you just have to deal with.”

If you’ve ever worked in food service, like a restaurant or a coffee shop, you know that much of your time and energy are spent trying to get good tips, which, if you’re a server, make up the bulk of your take-home pay. People eating in restaurants might not know this, but the U.S. federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour. “You’re not making anything if you’re not getting tips, said H. “So if you’re going to do something that jeopardizes your tip, it had better be worth it.”