Top 5 Legal Tips for Waiters, Waitresses - Law and Daily Life
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Top 5 Legal Tips for Waiters, Waitresses

You may or may know that today is National Waiters and Waitresses Day.

Either way, if you're planning on dining out, today might be a good day to throw a couple extra percentage points onto your usual tip (assuming you do tip). To do our part, we've put together a few tips of our own -- legal tips, naturally.

Don't wait... check out our Top 5 legal tips for waiters and waitresses:

  1. Combined wages and tips must at least equal the minimum wage. Under federal law, an employee who regularly gets tips can be paid less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, but only if their tips, when combined with wages earned, equal at least $7.25/hour. If the tips and wages fall short, the employer must pay the difference. But remember, federal minimum wage is the baseline; many states have set a higher minimum wage for tipped employees.

  2. Your boss can't take your tips ... most of the time. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must retain all of their tips. However, in some states such as New York, tip-pooling policies like the one that forced Starbucks baristas to share tips with their supervisors have been upheld (because in that case, the "supervisors" were more akin to servers, the court found).

  3. Know when overtime starts. Generally, any employee who is not otherwise exempt must be paid at least one-and-a-half times their normal wage for any hours over 40 worked in a given week under the FLSA. Although each state has its own overtime laws, when an employee is subject to both state and federal laws, and employer must follow whichever of the two would result in higher pay.

  4. Don't insult customers, even if it's just a joke. Although your co-workers and you may enjoy lightening the mood with some humor, don't do it at the expense of customers. In the age of the Internet and social media, that's a great way to get your company sued and get yourself fired.

  5. Keep your social media social. On a similar note, your job may seem like a great place to pull off a silly prank to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. But it could come back to haunt you in the worst way. Prank on your own time. Likewise for sharing racist rhetoric.

You know your menu like the back of your hand, so make sure you know your rights as an employee just as well. If you have more specific questions, an experienced employment lawyer is just a click or a phone call away.

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