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Restaurant workers lobby for higher wages

Long Island restaurant workers may start making more per hour since a number of state lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are considering raising the minimum wage in this industry. New York is one of several states that pays restaurant workers more than the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour but less than the full state minimum wage.

While the assumption is that restaurant workers will make up the difference in tips, advocates say this dependence on gratuities increases the likelihood that workers will face sexual harassment from both customers and coworkers. In seven cities on Feb. 13, restaurant workers lobbied for a higher minimum wage.

Women employees are disproportionately affected by these lower wages. About 70 percent of employees who work for tips are women, and at some point in their lives, around half of American women work in the restaurant industry. When these women restaurant workers receive their state's full minimum wage, they are 50 percent less likely to report on-the-job harassment.

Seven states currently pay the full minimum wage to restaurant employees including California, Nevada and Washington. Tipped employees in New Jersey, Texas and 15 other states are paid $2.13 per hour. The rest of the states pay somewhere between the federal minimum and full state-mandated minimum wage.

Some restaurant workers may not know their rights and how they are affected by wage and hour laws. Employees who believe they are being underpaid or who feel they may otherwise face unfair working conditions may want to talk to an attorney about their rights. Even if the employee wishes to try to resolve the situation through the workplace, going into a meeting with an understanding of the law can be helpful. An attorney may also help an employee file a lawsuit if necessary. This may be a class action suit if a number of employees are affected.

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