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Are you a waitress being sexually harassed by your customers?

Waiters and waitresses work hard. Here in New Jersey, the tipped wage for servers is only $3.13 an hour, with the wait staff's tips supposed to make up the rest of the gap toward the $11 minimum wage.

That disparity can make servers feel like they have to allow entitled customers to take personal liberties with them that they would not otherwise permit. After all, the servers may reason, it's not as if it's their manager trying to back them into the stockroom to grab their buttocks or breasts.

It comes with the territory

In the service industry, most (80%) of the sexual harassment comes from the customers.That's not to say that managers and co-workers don't also contribute to the problem, but it's difficult to keep up a smiling demeanor towards your customers while simultaneously fending off their attempts at getting handsy with you.

Harassment can turn deadly

One 34-year-old waitress at a Chicago Mexican restaurant stated quite bluntly, "You will be sexually harassed." One of her friends was working as barista when a coffee shop regular murdered her. Waitresses expect to attract stalkers but still feel the need to wear makeup and look attractive to get bigger tips.

It's not just in "breastaurants"

So-called "breastaurants" like Hooters and Twin Peaks capitalize on the form-fitting tops and short-shorts that servers must wear. While simply slinging drinks and wings at one of theses establishments doesn't mean that servers are fair game for harassment, a certain amount of ogling and leering are to be expected.

But sexual harassment of wait staff by customers takes place in all types of eating establishments. From greasy spoons to five-star restaurants, servers all over the state as well as the nation have had experiences that literally make their skin crawl to relate them.

You don't have to accept this type of treatment

It can be hard to stand up to a customer when you are depending on the night's tips to make rent. But you ideally shouldn't have to fend off improper words or actions. That, after all, is one of the duties of your manager — to run interference between you and an abusive customer.

If your manager or the restaurant owner have demonstrated that they do not have your back in these matters, it may be time to take it to the next level and seek legal action against the eating establishment for failing to protect you from sexual harassment by customers.

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Mount Laurel, NJ 08054

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