Résumé : PurposeIn many countries, service workers’ (e.g. restaurant staff, bartenders) income depends highly on tips. Such workers are often female and targeted by sexual harassment. The purpose of this paper was to investigate whether the mode of compensation (tips vs. no tips) could play a causal role in the perceived legitimacy of sexual harassment.Design/methodology/approachIn an experimental study (N 5 161), the authors manipulated the source of income of a fictional female bartender (fixed income vs. smaller fixed incomeþtips) as well as whether she or her boss chose her (sexualized) clothing. The authors then asked male participants in an online survey to imagine being her customer and to form an impression of her.FindingsThe bartender was viewed as more sexualized, more manipulative and sexual behaviors toward her were perceived as more legitimate when she received tips. Further, the effect of tipping on the legitimacy of sexual behaviors was mediated by perceptions that she was manipulative. The target was perceived as more manipulative when she chose her clothes than not.Research limitations/implicationsThe study is an online scenario study and, as a consequence, assesses only judgments rather than actual behaviors.Practical implicationsEncouraging fixed salaries rather than tipping could reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment.Social implicationsThe present work suggests that tipping may play a detrimental role in service workers’ well-being by contributing to an environment in which sexual harassment is perceived as legitimate.Originality/valueTo the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study showing that mode of compensation can increase the objectification of workers and legitimize sexually objectifying behaviors toward them.