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Restaurant Employees

Employees are generally entitled to a "minimum wage" for every hour they work. For example, the minimum wage is $7.25/hour under federal and Pennsylvania law. It is $8.60/hour in New Jersey.

In restaurants, many servers, bartenders, bussers, runners, and other customer service employees are paid an hourly wage of less than $7.25. That's because restaurants are allowed to take a "credit" against the minimum wage for the tips employees receive from customers. This "tip credit" provides a big benefit to restaurants.

But, in order to take advantage of the "tip credit," restaurants must follow some very strict rules. When restaurants break these rules, the employees can recover substantial unpaid wages. In fact, our firm has recovered millions of dollars for hard-working restaurant employees who alleged rule violations.

The law can be complicated. But here is a list of the rules that protect servers, bartenders, bussers, food runners, and similar employees who receive less than the minimum wage:

• The restaurant and its managers are not allowed to keep any tips.

• The restaurant cannot require or allow tips to be shared with employees who do not interact with the customers. For example, it is illegal to require servers to pay tips to kitchen staff or to expediters who spend their time preparing or traying food orders. It is equally illegal for a restaurant to allow such kitchen employees to share in a "tip pool."

• Servers and bartenders cannot be required to pay the bills of customers who leave the restaurant without paying for their food.

• Servers, bartenders, and other tipped employees must be paid the full minimum wage for time spent performing "non-tipped" work. Such non-tipped work includes, for example, time spent cleaning the restaurant, time spent preparing the salad bar or condiments, and time spent preparing or packaging take-out orders (including orders received through GrubHub or other apps).

• Servers and other restaurant employees cannot be required to clean the restaurant or perform other work before they clock-in or after they clock-out.

• Servers and other restaurant employees must receive extra overtime pay when they work over 40 hours in a week.

• In Philadelphia, restaurants cannot deduct tips to pay any portion of credit card fees.

If you currently or formerly worked at a restaurant and have any questions about your wage rights, we would be very happy to speak with you. Just give us a call at (215) 884-2491 for a free and confidential consultation.

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