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What Tipped Employees Really Earn — Our Chicago Overtime Lawyers Bring Suit for Unpaid Wages and Overtime

You may have heard of the recent movement in Washington lobbying for a higher minimum wage, but did you know that there’s a similar movement to raise the tipped minimum wage? According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all employees working in the United States are entitled to be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The minimum wage for tipped employees, though, such as waiters and bartenders, is lower, only $2.13 per hour, with the expectation that the tips earned by the employees, combined with wages, will add up to at least $7.25 per hour. If that does not happen, the employer is required to make up the difference. As millions of Americans have already experienced, though, living on only $7.25 per hour can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and that remains as true for wait staff as for employees of other professions.

The practice of tipping has some up sides to it, but they mostly favor the restaurant and the customers, not the wait staff. Because the restaurant keeps its labor costs down by paying its waiters less than the normal minimum wage, it is then able to keep menu prices down. Customers also don’t have to worry about paying sales tax on the gratuities they pay, unlike the rest of the meal, and tips do have the potential to significantly boost the income of servers, but it rarely works out that way.

Because tips are left entirely to the discretion of the customers, they can tip well, poorly, or not at all. In theory, the gratuity paid is based on the quality of service provided by the waiter, but the reality is that there are many other factors outside of the waiter’s control that contribute to how well he is tipped, including appearance, age, and gender. Other factors, such as weather, can affect the number of customers a waiter has on any given day, which, in turn, has an effect on how much the waiter earns in tips that day.

Despite rumors that tipped employees make piles of money, the reality is that nearly 15% of the 2.4 million employees working as waiters and waitresses in the United States live in poverty. Compared to the 7% poverty rate of all employees in the country, it is easy to see that the practice of tipping does not result in wages that wait staff can live on. Instead, those working as servers are more likely to need public assistance and less likely to receive paid sick days or health benefits. They are also less likely to qualify for a car loan or mortgage.

At the same time, their ranks are increasing. From the start of the recovery of the recession, back in June of 2009, jobs in the restaurant industry have gone up 13%, while all other jobs have gone up only 5.5%. The result is that almost 10% of all workers are currently working in the restaurant industry, which is more than the percentage of employees working in manufacturing. It is therefore easy to see why it is just as important to protect employees working as wait staff, as all other employees.

To make matters worse, the federal tipped minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 per hour for more than two decades. As with all Americans, waiters and waitresses have a right to earn more wages to account for a higher cost of living.

The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Park Ridge and Des Plaines. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Schaumburg, Des Plaines and Arlington Hts. overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.