Praise of Pregnant Waitress' Viral Tip Overlooks a Huge Issue Faced by Restaurant Workers

December 27th 2016

Laura Donovan

A pregnant waitress in Arizona got the surprise of her life when a customer tipped her $900 on a $61.30 bill. Though the tip is a nice gesture, for a waitress working late in her pregnancy, no server should ever have to rely on the generosity of customers to support their own families.

Tip for pregnant waitress

“I couldn’t believe what I was looking at at first because it was such a high amount," Sarah Clark, who is due in early January, told CBS 5 Arizona on Dec. 20. "Nine hundred dollars is a lot of money. It took a while for it to set in, and once it did I cried for a little while."  

Clark, a server and bartender at Pita Jungle by Interstate 17, added that she and the customer, who was also pregnant, had previously talked about their pregnancies.

The money is going to be a big help because her fiancé, also a restaurant worker, will be recovering from surgery in the next few weeks, Clark explained. "Me being on maternity leave and [my fiancé] being out of work [while recovering from surgery], we’re not going to be making any income," she said. "So this is really going to help with rent and other bills and things like that.”

Pregnant waitress gets $900 tip

The Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA) only requires employers to give their workers 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave per year, and that's only if the employer has 50 employees and this individual employee has been at the company for at least a year. So, for Clark to keep her job, she'll likely take unpaid leave, unless her employer chooses to give her paid family leave.


The restaurant industry has received criticism in the past for its treatment of mothers.

In January, writer Amanda Kludt published a piece in Eater highlighting the struggles that moms in the restaurant field may face when getting parental leave. Kludt wrote that a friend who had worked her way up to a maitre d' position at a New York restaurant was replaced right before giving birth, despite being told that she would receive 10 weeks of unpaid leave and job security.

"This is an issue that affects women working in virtually every position within the restaurant world, from fast-food cashiers to cooks at four-star restaurants — but it's in fine dining that the issue starts to intersect with the industry's high-profile lack of high-profile women," Kludt wrote. "It's the industry's fault, it's the government's fault, it's our dining culture's fault. And it's something we can fix."

Some industry managers are pushing to change the norm and improve the working environment for parents. In September, New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer announced that employees who have worked at any of his restaurants for a year will be eligible for four weeks of full paid leave for new babies and adoptions. This policy applies to new fathers and mothers, alike, and, in addition, they can take four additional weeks off at 60 percent of their pay.