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Azadian Law Group
February 1, 2016

Study Uncovers Rampant Race & Gender Discrimination in the CA Restaurant Industry

The California restaurant industry is a hotbed of race discrimination and gender discrimination, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by the University of California (U.C.) Berkeley and U.C. Santa Cruz researchers.

Entitled Ending Jim Crow in America’s Restaurants,1 this study focused on evaluating the positions and pay rates for California restaurant workers of different racial backgrounds and gender identities. As part of this analysis, researchers reportedly examined wage data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and conducted dozens of interviews with restaurant owners and managers, as well as with discrimination experts and lawyers.

The goal was to uncover the factors that contribute to discrimination against California restaurant workers in order to identify “policy and programmatic interventions” to address and eliminate this discrimination – both in California and across the U.S.

The Findings

  • White male restaurant workers generally earn the highest wages – The average hourly rate for white male restaurant employees is $14.18, according to this study. While males of other racial backgrounds earn, on average, $11.63 per hour, researchers found that female restaurant workers generally earn about $11.30 per hour (if they are white) or $10.13 (if they are minorities).
  • Female restaurant workers only earn a fraction of what their male counterparts earn – In fact, female employees in the restaurant industry only earn, on average, about 78 percent of what their male counterparts are taking in. This finding is reflective of the national gender pay gap, according to data from the White House.2
  • Racial segregation exists in management versus non-management positions – White workers occupy more than 80 percent of the management positions in California restaurants, researchers discovered. Additionally, for higher-level non-management positions, white employees still held a disproportionately higher number of these jobs, with about 78 percent of them being filled by white workers.
  • Race discrimination also arises in staffing front-of-house versus back-of-house positions – In particular, back-of-house workers are far more likely to be underrepresented minorities, with Hispanic employees holding about 65 percent of all back-of-house positions in California restaurants. Given that front-of-house workers make about 12 percent more than back-of-house workers, this racial divide has significant financial impacts on underrepresented minorities who are commonly relegated to back-of-house positions.

Remarking on these findings, the study’s authors have explained that:

Jim Crow laws were the state and local laws regulating racial segregation in public and private spaces … While Jim Crow regulated the enforced separation between white and African American patrons in restaurants, today, we largely find that restaurant workers are effectively segregated by race and gender by a partition between livable-wage server and bartender positions and poverty wage busser, runner, and kitchen positions, and between limited service (fast food), full service casual, and full service fine-dining restaurants… It is time to end the occupational Jim Crow that pervades the industry and ensures women and workers of color are provided genuine opportunities leading to equitable outcomes.

Contact the Azadian Law Group, PC for Experienced Discrimination Lawyers in Los Angeles

If you have been the target of any form of workplace discrimination, contact the Azadian Law Group, PC to speak to experienced discrimination lawyers in Los Angeles who can inform you about your options for recovery and justice.

Call us at 626-449-4944 or send us an email via this contact form to find out more about how we can help you. If you choose to move forward with us, you will not have to pay us any legal fees until or unless compensation is secured for your case.


1: Executive Summary of this study is available here.

2: White House data regarding the gender pay gap in the U.S.



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