Women and the Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

Feb 10, 2012

The minimum wage is typically regarded as gender neutral, but there’s another aspect to this issue: workers whose tips are part of their overall compensation.  From that point of view, women are doing considerably worse than men.

The federal minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers is $2.13, the same as in 1992.  Granted, restaurants are supposed to fill in the gap between that figure and the minimum wage of $7.25, but enforcement of that requirement can be a challenge.  In situations where restaurants are not living up to their obligation, tipped workers are only making 29% of minimum wage, and their poverty rate is three times higher than that of the workforce at large.  Also, tips are not consistent across all restaurants, meaning that each meal served leaves tipped workers wondering whether they’ll be adequately compensated.

Since women make up two-thirds of the tipped worker population, there are millions of women lagging behind their male counterparts, who themselves may not make a living wage.  When all this is taken together, it becomes clear that women are hit especially hard by the failure to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers.  Congress
should act to improve this situation at once, and will be urged to do so at a legislative briefing in Washington, DC on Monday, February 13.

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