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Can your employer take your tips?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2023 | Employment Law |

You get a new job working as a server at a local restaurant. It’s your first time working in this industry. You’re excited on the first day when you get a number of tips. You start to realize just how lucrative this endeavor could be.

But that excitement fades when your new employer tells you that they are going to be taking the tips. Maybe they say that the tips belong to them simply because you’re serving at their restaurant. Perhaps they claim that you can take the tips on the table, but you’re not going to see any of the money left to you on a credit card. You already know that this is very frustrating, is it also illegal?

Employers cannot take tips from servers who earned them

As often as you will hear employees talk about how this has happened to them, it is highly illegal. Just because an individual owns a bar or restaurant does not mean they are entitled to any of the tips earned by their employees. That money is only supposed to go to the waitstaff, bussing staff, etc. An employer who takes tips is violating their employees’ rights.

This rule applies to both cash tips and to credit cards. In California, all credit card tips have to be paid out at the next regular payday. Cash tips may be collected immediately, of course, so there can be some delay in credit card tips, but your employer cannot simply keep that money for themselves.

Is tip pooling allowed?

Yes, tip pooling is allowed. This is the process of combining tips and then splitting them up among members of the staff. This may be used so that all of the waitstaff will go home with the exact same tips. But even if this is done, managers and supervisors cannot be included in the tip pool. Neither can the owner of the establishment. So, regardless of how tips are distributed, they still have to go to the staff.

What options do employees have?

Unfortunately, these rules aren’t always followed. Employees who feel that their rights have been violated need to be sure they know about all of the legal options at their disposal. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.