If you are new to working as a server or bartender in New York or previously worked in a tipped position in one of the few states that pays the full minimum wage for tipped employees, you may have been unpleasantly surprised to find a significant cut to your hourly paycheck. In New York and many other states, employers of tipped employees are allowed to pay their workers a much smaller minimum wage, with the expectation that their tips will make up the rest.

The New York Department of Labor explains that in workplaces where employees typically receive tips, employers may take a tip credit – meaning they pay a lower minimum wage. As an employee, you would report your tips and if your tips did not add up to receiving minimum wage by the end of the work week or pay period, your employer must pay you the difference. Additionally, your employer may require employees to participate in tip pooling, in which all tipped employees share a portion of their tips. You are also entitled to a full minimum wage when employees share tips.

You may have other job duties that do not entail tipping, such as cleaning and stocking. If nontipped work makes up two hours or more than 20 percent of your shift, your boss must pay you the full minimum wage for that day and may not take a tip credit from your wages.

Not surprisingly, there are many ways employers can take advantage of this situation if you are not aware of your rights. These may include the following:

  • Forcing you to report tips that equal the full minimum wage, even if you did not make that much in tips
  • Refusing to pay the difference in tips owed to you
  • Making employees contribute an unreasonable amount to the tip pool
  • Claiming a tip credit when you have met the required time in nontipped work to make the full minimum wage

If your employer is not obeying the law regarding tipping and fair wages, you have the right to report it to the labor board and seek compensation.