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Is tip-pooling a legal policy for California employers?

On Behalf of | Dec 10, 2021 | Wage And Hour Claims |

If you work in a gratuity-based position, you probably work hard to make your shifts worth the effort. A good attitude and a lot of hustle could mean that you make a competitive hourly wage when you factor in the tips that your customers leave.

Under California law, a gratuity paid in a restaurant or similar service-based business is the sole property of the worker that the customer wants to tip. Is it legal for your employer to require that you pool your tips or share some of the gratuities that you receive with other staff members?

Tip pooling among those who help with service is legal

California state law does protect your right to your tips, but you don’t earn those gratuities all on your own. You may have brought out drinks mixed by a bartender or relied on the support of a busser to clear the table between courses.

If your restaurant has a policy that you have to tip out those who help you serve the customers, that policy is legal. However, there is a situation where a tip-pooling policy is illegal and a violation of your rights as a worker.

Owners and management can’t demand a share of the tips

Sharing tips among the staff members providing service is legal and potentially appropriate depending on how the business operates. Those in an obviously tipped position may earn less than minimum wage, and the people they tip out at the end of the shift may not make much more than that an hour. Sharing with them is reasonable.

However, the managers and owners of businesses typically make more per hour or receive a salary.  Requiring that you share your tips with the manager on duty, the general manager of the business or the owner of the company, however, is not appropriate and fair. These individuals may help run the business, but they do not directly contribute to the service that you provide for the customers.

If you have long had to share your tips with your supervisor or the owner of the business, they may have violated your right to a fair wage and the tips you earned. You and the other workers at the business may have grounds for a wage claim against the company.

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