A Tip For Tipped Employees in NJ

I bussed tables and I waited tables for not-so-busy restaurants. I had a lot of time to read the labor rights poster in the back of the restaurant, and one thing about my pay always caught my eye, yet I never acted on it. But you sure can!

If you work in a New Jersey restaurant, and you notice that you’re not making very much money at all while waiting or bussing tables, well, legally you should be making more and here is why.

Under New Jersey law, your employer most likely pays you a flat rate of $2.13 per hour, and then of course you are supposed to make tips too. However, your employer is obligated to ensure that your hourly wage and tips combine to the amount you should have made at a regular minimum wage rate by the end of each pay period, which in New Jersey is $8.38 per hour.

So let’s say that you got stuck working the lunch shift, on a Tuesday, and it really is not very busy at all. You worked 5 hours, and made just $15 off of three tables. For 5 hours of work, your employer has already paid you $10.65 per your $2.13 hourly rate, so in total you’ve made $25.65 for the day.

$25.65 technically leaves you $16.25 below what you should have made at New Jersey’s minimum wage rate of $8.38 per hour. Your employer is responsible for making up that gap, if and only if you remain below what you should have made at the minimum wage rate by the end of the week.

So, let’s say that after you worked that cruddy Tuesday lunch shift, you then worked Friday night and made $80 in tips for 5 hours of work. Well, now you’re over the total of what you would have made at minimum wage for your Tuesday and Friday shifts, so your employer is off the hook, and you are responsible to claim the amount.

Now, what have we learned here?

  1. It is super important to calculate what you should have made at the end of each work week, and compare that number to what you’ve taken home.
  2. It is important to know what the state’s minimum wage rate is now, and what it will be as of January 1, 2016. (It will remain at $8.38 this year) (Damn…)
  3. It is important to ask your potential employer if they are aware of this obligation, because if they are not, they either really do not know or they are lying. No matter which scenario it is, if you get the sense that the restaurant won’t be very busy, it may make sense to pass on that gig and seek another one. It would take forever to get the money you would be entitled to after filing a complaint to the Department of Labor.
  4. The average 40 hour work week at $8.38 per hour results in $335.20, before taxes of course. If you are making less than that amount after working 40 hours at your job, it’s time to talk to the boss, or the head chef; whoever writes out your paycheck.
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