It's been dubbed the glass floor by some, and accepted as a reality of the American economy by many: tipping often makes up the bulk of pay for employees in the food service and hospitality industries. In fact, in many states, it's legal to pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour, the federal tipped minimum wage. As a result, servers have to rely on customers' good graces to make up their paycheck – a situation that often leaves tipped workers vulnerable to sexual harassment.
Language matters, especially when it comes to legislation. Recently, we had proof of this when the Affordable Care Act nearly deflated thanks to an alternate interpretation of the phrase "established by the state." Now, city officials in Portland, Maine, find themselves in a similar bind: confusion over the language in a recent bill to raise the city's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour led city council to nearly double tipped workers' wages, from $3.75 to $6.35 an hour, as of January 1. The accidental raise was met with dismay from restaurant owners and delight from labor organizers. Both dismay and delight, however, might be short-lived.