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Center for Labor Research and Education

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Working Below the Line: How the Subminimum Wage for Tipped Restaurant Workers Violates International Human Rights Standards

Working Below the Line: How the Subminimum Wage for Tipped Restaurant Workers Violates International Human Rights Standards
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A joint publication of the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center; the UC Berkeley School of Law, International Human Rights Law Clinic; and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Summary

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration to ensure an existence worthy of human dignity. However, for many low-wage tipped workers in the U.S. restaurant industry these standards are out of reach. Rooted in exploitation of workers, the custom of tipping has evolved since its origins in the late nineteenth century. It has become codified in a two-tiered minimum wage system that denies tipped restaurant workers fair wages and basic labor protections. This report sheds light on the ways in which federal and state laws maintain this wage structure and enable working conditions in the restaurant industry that violate fundamental human rights protections for tipped workers, particularly women and people of color. This human rights analysis points to significant human rights deprivations and the need for new laws and policies