One Wage for Restaurant Workers

If you have never waited tables, you probably do not understand how servers get paid and why tips are very important. In 43 states in the nation, restaurant workers get paid far less than minimum. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25, an employee at restaurant waiting tables probably makes around two dollars and change per hour.

heres-is-a-tip-1022839-mAs the worker goes through the day, he or she serves people and gets tips. At the end of a shift, a worker goes into the manager’s office with his or book. The manager tells the server how much money they owe the house for the day, and whatever is left over (tips) the server keeps. However, before he or she can leave, the server must “tip out” other people, like bartenders who make the drinks, bussers, bar backs, hosts and hostesses, and server assistants.   This is based on a percentage in sales.

In other words, if someone doesn’t tip you, but you still have to tip out the other workers at the end of the night, with only making around two dollars an hour, it can actually cost you money to wait on that table.

A recent news article from KQED not only discusses this but also looks at in historical context. At turn of the 20th century, Americans went to Europe and learned that people tip workers. They tried to do this in the states, but apparently it was viewed as un-American, and several states passed laws forbidding tipping staff. However, companies that ran restaurants and railroads wanted to hire freed slaves and make them live on tips so they could literally pay their employees nothing.

As the practicing of working for tips became standard, there was a federal labor law enacted requiring workers to be paid at lest the federal minimum wage if they did not make it up in tips that shift. However, as is often common in the restaurant industry, laws are not always followed, and people did not make minimum wage at slow times.

To combat this, legislature in the State of California and a few other states have enacted a single minimum wage for every worker, regardless of whether he or she is working for tips or only hourly pay. While one might expect restaurant owners to be unhappy about this, and they probably claim they are, restaurant sales are higher in California and six other states with a single minimum wage, and there are also higher employment rates in the industry.

Again, while California employees at restaurants should not have to worry about making less than minimum wage, as discussed above, labor laws are not always strictly followed in this industry, and many employers have been trying to take advantage of their employees. For reasons that do not entirely make sense, many chain restaurants measure a manager’s success at how low their labor costs are, and if managers want to become general managers one day, it is often the servers who suffer. For this reason, if you think your employer is not paying you fairly according to the law, you should contact a Los Angeles labor lawyer as soon possible.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Big Think: Give Restaurant Workers One Fair Wage, January 11, 2016, KQED News, By Laura Klivans

More Blog Entries:

Hillary Clinton to Crack Down on Worker Classification, July 18, 2015, Orange County Employment Lawyer Blog