The next time you are in a restaurant and are poised to leave a tip, consider this: tipping is not just about giving an extra “thank you” for receiving good service. It is often a way of life for the poor and disadvantaged; particularly young women who are in their first jobs.

While the wage discrepancy is indeed an issue, the untold story is about the instances of sexual harassment (both reported and unreported) that women in the restaurant experience each year. According to ROCUNITED (Restaurant Opportunities Centers United) women in the restaurant industry report five times the number of sexual harassment complaints compared to the general workforce. This number is staggering considering that women who are servers only make up a fraction of the number of women in the workplace at large. 

Even more troubling, given how little these women make compared to patrons who tip them, the rampant misuse of tip funds, and the construction of minimum wage laws as they apply to waitresses, it is no wonder that many women subjected to harassment do not complain. Simply put, they need the job in most instances, and the threat of losing their job outweighs the humiliation that comes with harassment.

Nevertheless, women do not deserve to be harassed simply to earn a living. Moreover, if an employer knows about harassment and does nothing to correct it, the employer could be held liable.

The preceding is not legal advice. However, if you have questions about your rights and options under California law, an experienced employment law attorney can advise you.