Recently, a reader took issue with an earlier blog post that criticized the practice of “automatic gratuity” on restaurant bills. The reader, clearly a server, argued that the practice was in the best interest of the restaurant employee as they are paid less than minimum wage and rely on "tips” for their livelihood. I couldn’t help but think “Hey, it comes with the territory”. When you’re a server, bad tips are an occupational hazard.
Occupational hazards can affect everyone in the workforce to some degree. Bank tellers that get robbed shouldn’t be all that surprised. They go to a bank every time they go to work and they know that banks get robbed. Certainly, a bank robbery is a terrible and dangerous thing but they do happen and they happen at banks.
Coal miners understand, at the beginning of each shift as they pass through a tunnel deep into the mountainside, that they might not get back out. Police officers know that they might get shot and firemen know that they might get burned.
When a NASCAR driver is in an accident, it’s a terrible tragedy but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Athletes expect to get injured. Mail carriers get chased by dogs. Secretaries get Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. Lifeguards get sunburn.
Difficult customers, belligerent colleagues, machines that crush fingers, sharp knives, animals that bite, dangerous highways, rides on the subway, flat tires, germs and criminals all come with a different territory. In 1970, the U.S. Department of Labor created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to set regulations for equipment, safety gear and protective clothing and to provide training and education programs that promote safe work environments. But, still, risk cannot be completely eliminated from any profession.
Occupational hazards exist to some degree with every form of employment. While it's certainly not my intention to trivialize accidents that do happen, it's should be clear that everyone who works has to weigh the risks and rewards of their chosen profession. One would think that waitresses, who occasionally get tips they consider too small, should not be terribly surprised.
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