Report: 80% of waitresses report being sexually harassed

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By Ben Popken

Here's a tip: the next time your waitress smiles at you, know that there's a pretty high chance she's been sexually harassed in the workplace.

According to a new report by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 80 percent of tipped women workers in the restaurant industry report receiving some form of sexual harassment from co-workers and customers.

That compares to 70 percent of male restaurant workers who reported being sexually harassed by co-workers, and 55 percent of men who said they had been sexually harassed by customers.

Sexual harassment rates doubled for women who worked in states with a $2.13-per-hour tipped minimum wage as compared to states where workers are paid the full federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The report comes as labor groups have gained momentum around the country in their fight for higher wages. Organizers have rallied in Seattle for a $15 minimum wage. The White House has proposed raising the federal tipped minimum wage to $4.90 by 2016.

But the restaurant industry said the report and its findings were out to lunch.

"These recycled attacks are part of a national, multimillion dollar campaign engineered, organized and funded by national labor unions and their allies seeking to disparage an industry that has no barrier to entry and no limit to what employees can achieve," said Christin Fernandez, a National Restaurant Association spokeswoman, in a statement.

Restaurateurs also pushed back on the notion that a lower base wage increases the likelihood a tipped worker will become the victim of sexual harassment.

"The assertion from ROC that the tipped wage somehow increases sexual harassment by customers is another effort to confuse the reality of the tipped wage in the industry," said Fernandez.