KORENICH: Raise server wages, end tipping

When receiving a service or visiting a restaurant, it is customary to leave the person that served you a tip. Oftentimes, especially in the restaurant industry, servers make much less than minimum wage, and tips are how they survive.

Unfortunately, this can lead to people being subjected to demeaning behavior in order to gain a better tip. Especially, with the saying “the customer is always right,” patrons may feel like it is okay to overstep normal boundaries. For waitstaff and other people in the service industry to feel more comfortable at their jobs, their normal wages need to be raised so they do not have to rely on tips.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of servers are women, and almost half of those are under the age of 25. Tipping can leave a lot of these young women in dangerous settings and open to lewd comments and even sexual assault.

Brittany Gilbert, a server in West Virginia, said when she began serving she would get “creeped out” all the time. To make the money she needed she said she just had to learn to laugh at what patrons would say or do.

Dana Angelo, a server at a New York restaurant called Asia de Cuba, was subjected to sexual assault when a customer walked past her, reached up her dress and grabbed her crotch. Unfortunately, she felt like there was nothing she could do. She was looking at up to $200 in tips and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.

To add to that, Angelo told her manager, who not only did nothing, but went over to shake the man’s hand. Luckily, Angelo notified upper management of the incident with help from her union delegate. She received an apology from her manager, and the restaurant was shut down.

Many servers who are subjected to this inappropriate behavior have a harder time reporting it or doing anything about it. The majority of servers and bartenders work at businesses that often don’t have their own human resources department. Worse, many servers are reluctant to report because they feel like dealing with customers is just part of the job.

It is vitally important that the restaurants and other businesses in the service industry protect their employees. There should be an easy way to report inappropriate behaviors. Staff members should be able to tell their managers right away if something happens, and means should be taken to either remove the customer from the restaurant or to take them to another section, depending on the severity of the incident.

Waitstaff shouldn’t be nervous to go to work. They also shouldn’t have to put up with sexually suggestive comments just so they can get tips they need to make a living. In reality, these people are just doing their jobs.

This harassment can also go outside of the restaurant. In some scenarios, employees have reported customers waiting outside for them to take the trash out or close up the restaurant. This happened to a server named Ashley Maina-Lowe, who said the man approached her as she was closing up, asked if she was alone and disclosed that he had been watching her through the window. This situation caused her so much discomfort that she went and bought a gun she could keep on her when she had to close the bar.

The fix for this is simple: increase starting wages so servers don’t need to rely on tips. Some restaurants have even a no-tipping policy so workers have absolutely no reason to put up with harassment to get the money they need. It would definitely take some time for everyone to get used to this since tipping is such a big part of our culture, but it is vitally important to change that so workers feel comfortable at their jobs.