Study: Waitresses lack fair minimum wage

A new study finds that the pay gap between men and women is 20 percent higher in states where restaurants can pay waitresses below the minimum wage.

The authors of the new report from the National Women’s Law Center are pushing to raise the federal minimum wage for tipped employees.

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"Increasing wages for the predominately female workers at the bottom of the pay scale can reduce poverty and help close the wage gap," the authors wrote. "Raising the federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers—ideally, by eliminating it altogether—is a crucial step toward fair pay for women."

The new study comes as fast food workers have been protesting for higher pay. But the report finds that waitresses in many states may be in worse economic shape than those picketing McDonald’s and Burger King.

Restaurants in most states are allowed to pay their waitresses less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour because those workers traditionally make most of their money from tips.

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 per hour and hasn't been raised in 23 years, according to the study.

Some states, known as "equal treatment states" have rejected the minimum wage for tipped workers and instead require restaurants to pay waitresses the standard minimum wage.

The NWLC study suggests women do better in these states; the pay gap is smaller and fewer women live in poverty.

The group suggested that because women make up about two-thirds of restaurant servers, they are more directly affected by the minimum wage for tipped workers.