If You're a Woman Waiting Tables in Dallas You're Probably Getting Sexually Harassed

"It's an infinite loop of pressure to tolerate whatever bullshit so that you can make money," says author and former Dallas server Merritt Tierce.
"It's an infinite loop of pressure to tolerate whatever bullshit so that you can make money," says author and former Dallas server Merritt Tierce.
Mark Graham

Like any other job, being a server comes with its share of shittiness. Working all day on your feet is exhausting, patrons can be dicks, and you have to work really, really hard to earl that $2.13 an hour plus tips.

And on top of all of the usual stresses, a new report shows, women who wait tables in restaurants also have to deal with a significant amount of sexual harassment -- especially if their income is mostly tip-based. It's a problem Dallas servers say is plenty prevalent in area restaurants.

In a report titled "The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment In The Restaurant Industry," labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Center United found that roughly 90 percent of tipped female employees have experienced sexual harassment from customers, coworkers, and restaurant management. The study also found that a high percentage of male servers experienced sexual harassment, but their female counterparts were much more likely to be victims.

Tipped female employees, who make up the majority of these workers, were also (unsurprisingly) more likely to be asked by management to wear "sexier" clothing to increase their earnings, and were significantly more susceptible to harassment from their coworkers. The majority of the harassment is in the form of sexual innuendo and inappropriate comments, but it often escalates to improper touching. At least 21 percent of women reported that they had been "inappropriately kissed or fondled" while on the clock.

I reached out to a few past and present female servers at Dallas-area restaurants, most of whom confirmed that this experience isn't uncommon. Their coworkers are the sometimes worst culprits, they said. One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she actually quit her job at a high-end restaurant in Highland Park because she was continually harassed by a busser she worked with.

Another woman I spoke with stressed that sexual harassment isn't just limited to the front of the house. "I experienced no shortage of sexual harassment," she said. "I would never, ever go back to working in a kitchen, and that's partially why."

Dallas-based author Merritt Tierce, who recently penned a novel based on her time waiting tables at Nick & Sam's, also agreed with the culture described in the report, and thinks that the tipping system is at least partially to blame.

"It's an infinite loop of pressure to tolerate whatever bullshit so that you can make money, which in turn makes the restaurant a place where bullshit is tolerated," she writes in an email. "I think many women, especially younger women, feel stuck in restaurant employment because the schedules are flexible and there's a chance at making an hourly rate that's higher than minimum wage. But when the money you make begins to depend on how much uninvited touching and offensive language you're expected to absorb, not to mention being pressured to actually provide some form of sex, it can feel like resistance is futile."


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