When you work in food service, chances are, a lot of your pay depends on tips. Sometimes, that can be a good thing — maybe you work in a fancy restaurant, or your base pay isn’t that low to start. But on the other hand, some servers have to deal with small tips, no tips at all, and even tables that leave without paying.
Unfortunately, no one is required to leave a tip. But you know what is required? Getting paid minimum wage. And we don’t just mean $2.13 every hour.
How Much Should I Make?
Even though the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour, that shouldn’t be all you’re making. Your minimum wage is $2.13 because you’re supposed to get tips, too. With tips, you should take home at least minimum wage (federally, it’s $7.25/hour).
So, for example: Let’s say your base pay is $3/hour, and you work 10 hours in one day. Pre-tax and pre-tips, that’s $30. Let’s also say you make $100 in tips over that amount of time. Your (before taxes) take-home pay for a 10-hour shift is $130. That divides out to $13 per hour, which puts you well above the minimum wage. If this sounds like your situation, you’re probably being treated correctly.
You should never be taking home less than the un-tipped minimum wage for your area.
What to Look Out For
Here are the important questions:
- Does my manager take any of my tips?
- Do I share tips with the back of the house?
- Do I take home less than minimum wage?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your employer might be taking advantage of you. Of course, number 3 is most important, but the other two can be signs of wages you should be getting and aren’t.
If you’re not making minimum wage, you’re not making enough.
Talk to your fellow servers. See if anyone else is having the same problems as you. Make sure you know what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to your wages. If you’re concerned, you should reach out to a lawyer to see if you can get back those wages that have been taken from you.