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.
(Photo Credit: Eric Heath/Flickr)
Here are some of the ways in which phasing out tips could begin to address this problem.
Empowering Employees With Higher Wages
According to Jezebel, reporting on a survey from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, “servers appear to report significantly more harassment (and a greater willingness to tolerate sexual harassment) in the 43 states using a tipped sub-minimum wage than in the seven states that don’t.”
The sad reality is that if a worker feels their livelihood depends on making the customer happy, they’ll be less comfortable reporting an incident to their manager. By replacing the tipping system with a wage that employees can comfortably live on, we could create a situation in which workers feel they can speak up.
Acknowledging Tipping Culture’s Sexism
Eighty percent of female restaurant workers report having been harassed by a customer on at least one occasion. It’s an occupation subject to constant objectification – from the way a waitress looks in her uniform to how much she smiles, regardless of how rude a customer might be.
When we talk about the gender pay gap, we can’t afford to ignore how many more women work in these lower paid roles. It’s not to say that getting rid of tips would magically solve pay inequality – women with office jobs still make less than their male co-workers – but it would be a start.
Some Benefits May Surprise You
Some restaurant owners have stated that their decision to abolish tipping has actually improved both service and quality of the food produced in their kitchens. Jay Porter of the Linkery restaurant in California noted positive results from changing to a no-tip system, telling Slate that this was “probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted …eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service.”
It makes complete sense that when employees feel appreciated and are compensated fairly, they are more likely to be motivated and want to produce better work. While this is true for other industries, not just the restaurant world, it’s there that we can start to phase out tipping as an outdated practice that unfairly affects the mostly young and female workforce.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you think tips need to be left in the past, or does tipping have its benefits? Let us know in the comments below, or join the discussion on Twitter.