They get paid very little and are treated poorly by management and have incredibly high rates of sexual harassment.
Daily Kos: Restaurant industry screws women, while $2.13 tipped worker minimum wage makes it worse
Basically, the restaurant industry is taking an abysmally low base wage, adding in employers who pressure workers not to demand their legal right to make at least the full minimum wage, and crowding women into the lowest-paying occupations and sectors of the industry. Few restaurant workers have either paid sick days or employer-provided health insurance, of course. As well, at slow times, restaurants may send home workers who earn the full minimum wage or above, keeping servers who are only paid $2.13 an hour to staff the restaurant, as one woman profiled in the report experienced:
One night, Claudia was one of three servers on a slow night. Claudia was told to roll silverware into napkins for two hours straight, not taking any customers except for one table. Claudia knew she wouldn’t make any tips, and she’d still be asked to report that she made the minimum wage in tips. Meaning, with taxes, she’d have worked for free. After two hours, Claudia approached the manager, saying, “I’m done with the silverware, and other servers are getting tables. Can I serve a table now?” The manager berated Claudia on the dining floor. She told her to punch out and go home, and to tell her table that someone else would serve them.
Women in the restaurant industry also frequently face sexual harassment:
More than one in ten of the more than 4,300 restaurant workers ROC-United surveyed nationwide reported that they or a co-worker had experienced sexual harassment in their restaurant.100 This figure is very likely an undercount. A recent MSNBC review of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data revealed that from January to November 2011, almost 37 percent of all EEOC charges by women regarding sexual harassment came from the restaurant industry, even though less than 7 percent of women work in the restaurant industry.