While some states have eliminated the subminimum wage, or raised it above the paltry federal rate, the vast majority of states still allow employers to pay servers less than minimum wage. Restaurant servers in the U.S. are about 70 percent female and disproportionately women of color. Young people, disabled workers and incarcerated people in many states also receive subminimum wages.
The system of subminimum wages and tipping is a legacy of slavery. After the Civil War, white business owners replaced wages with tipping because they did not want to pay their Black employees. Today, the subminimum wage harms women of color, in particular, who face biases from customers, which shows up in lower tips.