Wage Laws and Tipped Workers – What Are Your Rights?

Several sources have reported that wage and hour lawsuits are on the rise, often as the result of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and/or state labor laws. Many times, these lawsuits arise concerning how “tipped workers” such as wait staff, bartenders and others who depend on tips as a portion of their wages – are compensated. Tipped pay is complicated by numerous issues, including how tipped workers are compensated when they perform non-tipped duties, and where tip pooling arrangements exist, whether these are valid.

If you are a tipped worker and have questions concerning about your pay and whether you have been properly compensated for your work, it is important to consult with an experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyer immediately. A knowledgeable FLSA attorney can provide you critical advice concerning your pay and help protect your rights.

Some of the rules include:

You must be paid minimum wage.

Under Federal Law, tipped workers earn a minimum of $2.13 per hour. If this pay plus tips doesn’t add up to $7.25, then employers must pay the difference.

No more than 20% of your time can be spent on non-tipped duties.

Further, if the tipped workers spend more than 20% of their time performing “non-tipped” duties then they must get paid at the higher hourly rate. Thus, when tipped employees perform significant maintenance, prep work, or opening and closing duties, such time in not tipped. If this amounts to more than 20 percent, then the tipped employees are entitled to receive $7.25/hour (or higher in some states.)

Sharing tips with non-tipped employees is generally not allowed.

Employers may also violate the FLSA if they force tipped workers to share their tips with non-tipped workers such as hosts and hostesses, and cooks. This means if non-tipped employees participate or are included in the tip pool, the employer loses or forfeits the tip credit and the employee is entitled to receive the full cash minimum wage for all time worked.

You own your tips.

Employers are also not allowed to retain any of the money the tipped employee receives. Each tip is the sole property of the tipped employee – this means in may be illegal for the restaurant to keep any part of a server’s tips. If the employer doesn’t follow these provisions of the FLSA, the worker must receive full minimum wage for all time worked.

If you have any questions about wage and hour issues, or if you are a tipped employee and are concerned that you have not been paid what you deserve, we urge you to consult with the top Atlanta wage and hour attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.