A Big Tip for Mayor Gray and the DC Council: Don’t Stiff Tipped Restaurant Workers on Paid Sick Leave!

February 17th, 2011 | by Elissa Silverman

What happens when a server or bartender at your favorite restaurant gets sick?

Most likely, he or she goes to work.

That’s because tipped restaurant workers are exempted from the city’s groundbreaking sick leave law. Passed in 2008, the “Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act” gives up to seven days of sick leave per year, based on the size of the employer, to many workers in DC. However, several classes of workers were excluded from taking advantage of this important law: students, contractors, premium pay hospital workers, and tipped restaurant workers.

Think about that the next time a juicy hamburger or aromatic plate of green curry tofu is headed toward your table. 

This week, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC released a revealing report about the restaurant industry in the District, based on surveys from more than 500 restaurant workers and interviews with employers and owners. Among other findings, the report found that many restaurant workers must choose between their health and their job when they are sick.

DC was the second city  in the country to require that employers provide sick leave, and several other cities such as Milwaukee, WI, have since followed suit. These cities recognize the benefits of having a healthy workplace. In San Francisco, the first city to pass paid sick leave, two-thirds of businesses and employees said they support the law, according to this new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. More than half of covered employees reported some benefit due to the law, and one out of four workers reported they were better able to care for their health and the health of their families.

The No. 1 recommendation from the ROC report is to include tipped restaurant workers in the city’s sick leave law. It’s time to do that, and a bill amending the current law to include tipped workers will likely be introduced in the DC Council this session.  Mayor Gray and the DC Council should support this important addition.

One Response to “A Big Tip for Mayor Gray and the DC Council: Don’t Stiff Tipped Restaurant Workers on Paid Sick Leave!”

  1. William Mohring says:

    As someone who worked in the restaurant industry, the lack of benefits is very troubling. Part of the reason there is such a high turnover is because people move on to jobs where they can make similar money with benefits. Having happy employees and a healthy work environment is a key to developing and sustaining not just a loyal workforce but a loyal clientele as well.