Your Legal Rights as a Tipped Employee

Do you earn tips at your job? Plenty of employees in Missouri do, including those who wait tables, mix drinks, carry luggage, and clean hotel rooms. 

For many hourly wage earners, tips can make the difference between a living wage and financial stress. Although a portion of gratuities may be counted as wages by employers, employees are entitled to the highest minimum wage that applies to them, whether federal, state, or local. 

The laws about what counts as a tip, how much your employer must pay you, and whether you have to contribute to a tip pool can sometimes be overwhelming. But understanding how tipping impacts your paycheck is critical for you to be paid properly.

What Counts as a Tip?

Tips or gratuities are the money a customer gives directly to a service employee, such as a waiter, delivery driver, bellhop, cleaning staff, or bartender. Without tips to supplement their income, many people would have trouble making ends meet and putting food on the table. 

Employees in every state must be paid at least the minimum wage, including employees who earn tips. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) spells out the laws for tipped employees. 

However, the employer is permitted to use an employee’s tips as a “tip credit” to offset the employer’s minimum wage obligation or for a valid tip pool. What does that mean? Read on to get a full understanding of these often-confusing policies.

Tip Credits Explained

A tip credit allows a business owner to count an employee’s tips towards paying the minimum wage. A tip credit is the amount (balance) the employer does not have to pay.  

In other words, the Missouri minimum wage minus the tip credit is the least amount the employer can pay. If an employee doesn’t make enough in tips during a given workweek to earn at least the minimum wage for each hour worked, it is mandatory for the employer to pay the difference.

However, before this occurs, your boss is required to notify you in advance that they intend to implement a tip credit procedure.

Businesses who engage in tip credits have very specific procedures that must be followed, such as:

  • The law clearly states that the gratuity belongs exclusively to a tipped employee
  • An employer can never take employee tips and keep them for themselves
  • However, an employer may be allowed to take a tip credit to count part of the tips towards the required minimum wage

You may be asking yourself, “when can I sue for wages or missing tips?” If you have concerns about whether you are receiving all of the tips to which you are legally entitled, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney to explore your options.

Tip Pools Explained

Tip pooling among employees is a pretty common practice, especially in the food industry. It occurs when all tipped employees are required to contribute a certain amount of their tips into one collective pot, which is then divided evenly among that group of employees.

Even so, employers have pretty strict limits when it comes to tip pools:

  • Federal law prohibits employers from keeping any portion of the tips 
  • Employees involved in a tipping pool must still be paid at least minimum wage
  • The pooled tips cannot be shared with managers

Know Your Legal Rights with Tipping

Under Missouri law and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are very explicit regulations governing how tipped employees are treated. If you believe your employer has failed to pay you correctly, you may have a legal avenue to pursue compensation.

You can find out more about Missouri minimum wage, tip rules, overtime standards, and other wage issues at the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

Get Legal Wage and Tip Help Now

When it’s time to choose an employment lawyer, pay attention to the lawyer’s knowledge and experience. In wage-related legal matters, it is important to speak to a professional familiar with the laws in your state.

If you are an hourly worker in Missouri or Illinois who has issues with how tips affect your wages or believes that you have not been paid fairly, call us Ross & Voytas, LLC. We handle all types of wage claims in Missouri and Illinois. Not only will we answer your questions, but we will provide legal guidance and represent you in a lawsuit against your employer if needed. 

Ross & Voytas, LLC are trial lawyers with big firm experience and small firm values. We combine objective advice with the tactical know-how to obtain the compensation you deserve.

The attorneys at Ross & Voytas bring more than thirty years of combined courtroom and litigation experience to support your rights. Clients have given our St. Louis law firm multiple 5-star reviews and we handle difficult cases. 

As natives to St. Louis and licensed in Missouri, Illinois, and various federal courts, Nate Ross and Rick Voytas provide knowledge and personal attention to your legal matter.

Don’t delay! Contact the professional attorneys at Ross & Voytas now for your paycheck problems in Missouri and Illinois at 314-394-0605 or learn more at

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