Legal Center for Restaurant Employees
Servers & Bartenders: Know Your Rights
Our Legal Center for Restaurant Employees is primarily geared toward the legal rights of waiters and waitresses, however, that certainly does not mean Tip Theft is unique to waiters and waitresses. There are numerous employees in the service industry who are plagued with illegal tip theft. In addition to representing waiters and waitresses, we represent various service industry employees against their employers to recover the wages and tips that their employers illegally retained. Our representation of tipped employees includes, but is certainly not limited to:
Waiters and waitresses are the most common industry where we see employers taking advantage of employees and violating federal wage laws. We frequently see employers violating waiters and waitresses’ rights under federal wage law by any one or more of the following ways: 1) illegally sharing waiters and waitresses tips with back-of-the-house employees; 2) illegally charging waiters and waitresses credit card fees or accounting fees to process tips; 3) illegally charging waiters and waitresses for the business’ items; 4) illegally requiring waiters and waitresses to pay for walked-tabs or wrong-ordered food. These are just a few basic examples, for a more comprehensive list and discussion of issues regarding waiters and waitresses’ rights see our page on Common Violations.
Similar to waiters and waitresses, bartenders are also commonly the subject of illegal wage theft. In addition to the discussion of the issues faced by waiters and waitresses, we frequently see employers violating bartenders’ rights under federal law in one or more of the following ways: 1) being illegally charged by their employers for cash register shortages; 2) illegally being required to share tips with bar backs (which is illegal if the bar back has limited customer interaction); and 3) illegally being charged for uniforms or for credit card fees to process tips.
We have represented several groups of employees against different chauffeur companies. In these cases, there was a lot of similarities and cross over with the issues. We have seen chauffeur companies violating the wage laws in the following ways: 1) failing to distribute the full amount of the tip or gratuity to the chauffeur driver; 2) illegally charging chauffeurs for uniforms; 3) requiring chauffeurs to pay for items that are more properly considered business expenses (i.e. cell phones, iPads, cellular service plans, car insurance deductibles after a vehicle accident)
Frequently, employers will attempt to illegally classify exotic dancers as independent contractors. Just as frequently, we see employers violating exotic dancers’ rights under federal wage laws in any one or more of the following ways: 1) illegally charging a dance or shift fee; 2) illegally requiring exotic dancers to share a portion of their tips or gratuities; 3) illegally failing to pay exotic dancers an hourly wage; 4) illegally charging or deducting from tips a house fee; 5) illegally requiring exotic dancers to pay for their own costumes or uniforms; 6) making other illegal deductions or charges from tips or gratuities.
When it comes to service industry employees who receive tips, employers commonly violate the wage laws. If you have questions about your entitlement to tips or service charges, check out our other pages or call us to schedule a consultation: 817-479-9229.
Legal Center for Restaurant Employees
How much can you recover?
If it is determined that your employer has violated the federal tipping laws, you are entitled to recover damages in the following amounts:
The minimum wage differential multiplied by every hour worked in past two years.
Since your employer violated the very law that allows it to pay you at the subminimum wage rate, it has lost the right to pay the subminimum wage and must make up the difference between the subminimum wage it paid and the full minimum wage, multiplied by every hour worked in the past two years. If you are in a state where there is no state law setting a higher minimum wage rate, you would be entitled to recover $5.12 for every hour worked ($7.25 – $2.13 = $5.12).
The amount of your misappropriated tips
You are also entitled to recover all of the tips that your employer illegally retained from you and any amounts that it charged you for items that are considered a cost of doing business.
You are also entitled to a “double award” in an amount equal to the amount of the minimum wage differential plus the amount of misappropriated tips.
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
Finally, you are also entitled to recover your attorneys’ fees and costs that were incurred in pursuing your claim. Luckily, this is what allows my law firm to take these cases on a contingency basis, meaning you will not owe us for any fees or costs unless we obtain a recovery on your behalf. Our fees and costs will never exceed the amount you recover.
In addition to recovering the above damages, your filing a lawsuit is a huge step in motivating change throughout the restaurant industry. So many servers (which are largely single mothers) are subjected to illegal tip theft and do not know who to turn to for help. You can be a part of standing up for others and be a voice of change so that other servers are not subjected to unfair wage practice and tip theft.
In our experience, after a lawsuit is filed against a restaurant, it sends a message not only to the restaurant you worked at, but to other restaurants, that they cannot taking advantage of restaurant workers and engage in unfair wage practices and tip theft.