Boulder, CO- Women who work in low wage jobs have plenty to worry and complain about, but their problems aren’t limited to struggling to make small paychecks stretch, their horrible working hours or their lack of benefits. No, low wage working women are not only poor but they also have to tolerate being sexually harassed on a regular basis.

Women in the restaurant and agriculture industry view sexual harassment as part their normal day; it’s just something they must tolerate in order to make a living. On top of dealing with harassment daily, women who speak up about the harassment are retaliated against.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nearly 37 percent of sexual harassment complaints they receive come from women in the restaurant business. That equates to more than five times the rate the overall female workforce, according to the Institute for Southern Studies. The ROC believes that figure is low compared to actual incidents since many women just tolerate harassment.

A survey or 4,300 restaurant works conducted by the Restaurant Opportunity Centers United characterized sexual harassment as part of the “norm.” Female restaurant workers see sexual harassment as “inevitable” part of their jobs.

The ROC analyzed four years of data from the EEOC including settlements and complaints and found the majority of complaints were lodged against well-known national chains. McDonald’s received the most complaints overall, 16 percent. Other popular chains that received a high number of complaints include: KFC, Sonic, IHOP, Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, Ruby Tuesday, and Denny’s, the ISS reported.

Most of these chain restaurants have policies against sexual harassment but it would appear that their training and reporting policies are largely ineffectual at preventing the inappropriate behavior.

Women who work in the agriculture industry fare much worse than low-wage workers in the restaurant industry. According to a 2010 survey, up to 80 percent of women in the agriculture industry admitted to being sexually harassment.

Female farm workers have two strikes against them; firstly, the large majority are documented and undocumented immigrants who don’t speak always speak English very well. They are not always aware of their rights or how to address their grievances. Also their immigration status is often used to buy their silence.

Sexual harassment is less about sex than it is about power, just like most forms of sexual assault and the less power a woman has the less likely they are to report a coworker for sexual harassment, especially of that coworker is a supervisor or manager.

Employees must also calculate the risks of reporting harassment. Too often, people who report sexual harassment face retaliation. They either have their hours cut, face additional harassment and in some cases are fired for complaining.

Women in low-wage jobs who face sexual harassment are encouraged to speak up. If they are afraid they will be ignored or punished for taking a stand, they will feel empowered when they retain a sexual harassment attorney. Having the backing of legal counsel will help put an end to the harassment and discourage employers from retaliating.