Former Waitress’s Story About Sexual Harassment Changes Bill To Lower Minimum Wage

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Erin Murphy knows sexual harassment in the restaurant industry because she witnessed it first hand working as a waitress while going to high school and college. So it was no surprise to her that a 2014 report called “The Glass Floor” found that paying restaurant workers sub-minimum wages led to more sexual harassment.

Murphy, now Deputy Minority Leader Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) in the Minnesota House, told her story late Monday night during a debate on a bill to lower the state’s minimum wage to workers making more than $12 an hour in tips.

“Women in states with a sub-minimum wage are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment in the workplace,” Rep. Murphy told her colleagues. Minnesota recently raised its minimum wage and is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t have a lower wage for tipped employees.

“The report concludes that allowing employees to pay certain workers less than the full minimum wage means that those employees must be supplemented by tips to earn their living. And they seek those tips to earn their living. And that serves to magnify the power and balance between the server and the customer and it blurs the line between good customer service and tolerating inappropriate behavior,” said Murphy

Sexier clothing, hands where they don’t belong

Sexual Harassment In States With Sub -minimum WagesThe Glass Floor

Sexual Harassment In States With Sub -minimum Wages

According to the report from The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Forward Together, women who worked in states with sub-minimum wages were “three times more likely to be told by managers to alter their appearance and to wear ‘sexier,’ more revealing clothing than they were in states where the same minimum wage was paid to all workers.”

“There were certainly times when hands were on me where they didn’t belong. And you tolerate that right? Because you want to earn your tips,” Murphy said. “So I didn’t want to object too much.”

The bill authored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farminginton) was going to pass because the Republican majority, which controls the House, supported it.

So Murphy offered an amendment to blunt the impact lowering minimum wage might have on sexual harassment at restaurants. In workplaces where the Department of Human Rights determines three or more probable-cause sexual harassment incidents have occurred, employers have to pay the higher minimum wage.

Garofalo said he had no objections to the amendment and it was included in the bill which passed 78-55. Murphy like most Democrats, voted against the final bill.

The chances of the lower wage becoming law are slim. A companion bill in the DFL controlled Senate is not likely to pass since it may not even get to a final vote.

Video above: Rep Murphy tells her story
Video below: entire Minnesota House debate on the minimum wage bill

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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