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Michigan raises the bar to stop sexual harassment

A recently compiled study performed by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United cites that almost 90% of women who are employed in restaurant jobs report experiencing sexual harassment on an ongoing basis. The study was conducted from May through August via personal interview and online and examined responses from 688 restaurant employees. The most predominant finding was that restaurant workers who are paid at the lower minimum wage of $2.13 per hour are twice as more likely to be harassed than those paid at the standard federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The co-founder and co-director of ROC United suggests that increasing the minimum wage will alleviate the necessity for workers to put up with unwanted sexual behavior in order to make a living. Harassment of restaurant employees is not limited to harassment from customers on a weekly basis; 75 percent of women reported harassment from co-workers and 66 percent reported harassment from their managers or supervisors on a monthly basis.

Michigan is one of the minority states that requires that tipped employees be paid $8.14 per hour prior to tip earnings. This change became effective on Sept. 1. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that there are still 21 states that require restaurants to pay the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour, which according to the restaurant study increases the potential for harassment in the workplace.

Despite Michigan's stance on the issue, harassment can still occur. In a situation where an employee is faced with unwanted sexual attention from customers, co-workers or employers, it may feel as if they have limited options. However, employees have inherent rights and there are laws in place to protect them. Consulting with an attorney for guidance may yield some success in making sure that rights are upheld.

Source: United States Department of Labor, 'Wage and Hour Division", Sept. 1, 2014

Source: USA Today, "Group: Sexual harassment rife in restaurants", Bruce Horovitz, October 07, 2014

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