Minimum wage is one of the current events topics across the nation. Some states have proposed or already enacted measures that would increase the minimum wage in certain industries or jurisdictions. This debate recently came to the state of New Jersey. Earlier this month, national advocacy groups spoke out on behalf of seasonal restaurant workers at the Jersey Shore.
The restaurant industry is unique in that some employees actually earn a base pay that is less than the minimum wage, and it is perfectly legal. There is something called a tipping wage, and it is different from a minimum wage. Under federal law, the minimum tipping wage is $2.13 per hour. States have the authority to set their own tipping wage as long as it is matches or is higher than the federal amount.
Under New Jersey law, any employee that earns any portion of their salary in tips is considered a tipped employee. This doesn’t mean that the employee isn’t entitled to the set amount of the hourly minimum wage. At the end of the shift, if the employees’ wages average out to below $8.25, the employer pays them the difference. Advocates are making a push to raise the federal tipping wage to at least $8.25 per hour.
Is then, a federal increase to $8.25 a moot point in New Jersey? Individuals, businesses and other concerned parties may fall on different sides of the issue, some citing a burden of extra accounting costs as a reason for opposition. What is important for restaurant employees in New Jersey to remember is that they are entitled to earn the minimum hourly wage amount even if they are an employee that earns tips.
Servers know better than anyone that some shifts might be slower than others. If this is the case, an employer must supplement the wages until the server hits that magic minimum wage per hour amount — whatever lawmakers determine it is at the moment. An employer that fails to do so could be considered to be in violation of state wage and hour laws.
Source: nj.com, “Raising base wage for restaurant workers would kill jobs: Opinion,” Marilou Halversen, March 6, 2014