"Workers in the service industry are often pressured by their employers to give friendly 'service with a smile.' New research suggests that when those employees also rely on tips to earn a living, it creates a power dynamic between the employee and customer that may increase the likelihood of sexual harassment on the job.
Alicia Grandey, liberal arts professor of psychology at Penn State, said the findings could give insight into how companies can help reduce sexual harassment from customers, including raising employees' hourly wages.
'It may not be necessary to completely eliminate customer tips, but rather reduce the dependence on tips by offering a livable wage,' Grandey said. 'Based on our results, if employees were less dependent on customer tips, harassment would be less likely to occur because customers would hold less power over the employee.'
According to the researchers, previous research has found that the majority of service employees have reported experiencing sexual harassment from customers, which typically involves inappropriate gestures, comments about appearance, and repeated unwanted requests for a phone numbers. Additionally, other studies have found that sexual harassment from customers predicted poorer employee health and attitudes about their work, as well as a higher likelihood of employee turnover."