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What rights do I have as a tipped employee in California?

Restaurant Tip

Service industry workers in California often rely on tips from customers for their income. However, many employees don’t fully understand their rights in regard to tips. Some workers in the service industry have been the victim of California labor law violations. Here, we’ll discuss your rights as a tipped employee so you will have a better grasp of your rights as a service worker.

If you were forced to work off the clock or were not paid the tips you deserve, you could be entitled to answers and fair compensation. The California employment attorneys at Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, are ready to evaluate your case and explain your legal options. Call now for a confidential consultation.

Your Tips Belong to You

Under California Labor Code Section 351, tips are the property of the employee they are left for. An employer may not:

  • Take employee’s tips for themselves
  • Deduct any amount from an employee’s wages due to the tips they received
  • Credit any portion of the tips against the tipped worker’s wages

Tips cannot count toward the minimum wage in California. The minimum wage laws just apply to what an employer pays, not tips left by customers. The California minimum wage is currently $13 an hour for companies with 25 employees or less and $14 an hour for companies with over 25 employees.

Tip Pooling Is Generally Permitted

Tip pooling is the practice of collecting the tips earned by multiple workers and then splitting them up. Employer-mandated tip pooling is generally legal in California as long as conditions are met.

Only certain workers can be included in the tip pool. Workers may be included if they are in the “chain of service” that leads to the tip. Servers, hosts, bartenders, bussers are typically among those in the chain of service at a restaurant, while chefs and dishwashers are not. Managers cannot have a percentage of the tip pool.

The tips must also be distributed in a fair manner. There has to be a system in place for determining the percentage of tips paid out to each worker. Typically, the largest percentage of the tips go to the servers.

Credit Card Charges Are Your Employer’s Responsibility

In California, an employer is not allowed to deduct credit card processing fees from a tip left by a customer to an employee through a credit card.⁠ The full amount of the tip left must be given to the employee. The employer must also cover the entire processing fee.

Mandatory Service Charges Are Not Tips

Mandatory service charges are not considered a tip. This is typically something added on for large parties or catered events, and it is taken by the employer. The employer decides whether or not they would like to distribute the charge to their employees.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

Are you a tipped employee? Do you suspect that your employer denied your tips? Are you worried about pooled tips? If you have any concerns about your tips and your employer’s labor practices, the experienced Riverside wage and hour attorneys of Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP can help. We are ready to identify if you have been denied income you were rightly owed. Our highly skilled and aggressive attorneys may be able to recover wrongfully withheld tips. Call us today at (951) 363-3523 for a confidential case evaluation.



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