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Group seeks to improve working conditions in restaurants

About 70 percent of workers in the food and beverage industry who receive tips and a regular wage are women. Tipped workers in many states are entitled to a federal minimum wage of $2.13 before tips are included. However, California and several other states offer what is referred to as the fair wage. Workers in those states are entitled to the full minimum wage before tips. Research has shown that these people experienced lower levels of sexual harassment compared to others who made $2.13 an hour.

States such as Florida and New York pay at levels between the federal minimum wage and the fair minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has not been changed in the past 20 years. The fact that workers may be reliant on customers to supplement their income may make them exposed to sexual harassment from those customers. Increasing a person's income may shift the balance of power toward the worker.

To help bring attention to wage and sexual harassment issues in the restaurant industry, rallies were organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. Those rallies took place in seven cities across the nation including New Orleans, Oakland Detroit. The restaurant industry is estimated to provide employment for 50 percent of all women at some point in their lives.

Sexual harassment may take many different forms in the workplace. In some cases, it may involve comments from customers or managers. In others it may include explicit text messages or other communications about a worker. Those who have lost a job or faced other consequences for reporting sexual harassment may be victims of unlawful retaliation. Victims may be entitled to damages including back pay and the dollar value of lost benefits. An attorney may provide assistance to those who are considering taking legal action.

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