Tuesday, February 27, 2024
BusinessFood & DrinkLGBTQ+ Rights

Shock report findings about LGBTQ+ restaurant workers

One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit representing tipped subminimum wage restaurant workers, released a new report on the harsh realities of being a LGBTQ+ restaurant worker. 

The report shows that the subminimum wage encourages rampant homophobia and transphobia in the restaurant industry that affects a workforce that is disproportionately (nearly one in five) members of the LGBTQ+ community and that LGBTQ+ restaurant workers face even higher levels of sexual harassment, homophobia, and transphobia than their non-LGBTQ peers. 

Topline findings from the report include:

  • LGBTQ workers are overrepresented in the restaurant industry. This puts them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than other workers. Of restaurant workers surveyed by One Fair Wage in March, 18 percent identified as LGBTQ. This is nearly double the percentage of the U.S. population as a whole that identifies as LGBTQ.
  • Restaurant workers experience the highest levels of sexual harassment in any industry. LGBTQ restaurant workers report even higher numbers of sexual harassment than cis/straight restaurant workers. LGBTQ respondents reported witnessing or experiencing sexual behaviors or comments that make them uncomfortable or feel unsafe at work at a higher rate than their straight counterparts – 82 percent and 67 percent, respectively – and 72 percent of LGBTQ workers reported that this harassment made them consider leaving their jobs, compared with 41 percent of straight workers.
  • A majority of restaurant workers also reported widespread transphobia and homophobia in the workplace in the form of comments or behaviors from customers, supervisors, or colleagues, and over 80 percent of LGBTQ workers reported experiencing or witnessing homophobic and transphobic comments in the workplace. 
  • Over half (58 percent) of all respondents reported that they experienced or witnessed transphobic or homophobic comments or behaviors from customers, supervisors, or colleagues. Over 8 in 10 (81 percent) of LGBTQ respondents said they experienced or witnessed transphobic or homophobic comments or behavior from customers, supervisors, or colleagues, compared with 41 percent of straight respondents.

Tipped workers often have to tolerate abusive employers and customers and adjust to variations of tips by shift, day, and season with varying amounts of customer traffic. Their dependence on tips thus makes them vulnerable to wage instability, and because workers are reliant on tips from customers for their income, it puts workers at risk of harassment and even assault.

“It’s clear that living off tips results in rampant harassment and discrimination across the restaurant industry,” said Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage. “Because of their reliance of pleasing customers for their income,  LGBTQ+ peoples, women, and people of color are all put a risk of dangerous sexual harassment, targeted harassment based on race and sexual orientation, and assault in an industry that is disproportionately people of color. We’re also seeing homophobic and transphobic harassment on the rise in an industry that is disproportionately LGBTQ. This report serves as a huge reminder that such rampant discrimination cannot be stopped with nondiscrimination laws alone. We also need legislation that ensures the floor is high enough to avoid economic instability and give workers the power to reject harassment for tips on the job – making the need to end the subminimum wage that much more important.”


Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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