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How Much Does A Waitress Make An Hour Without Tips in 2024?

In California, the minimum wage for servers (also known as tipped employees) is the same as the regular minimum wage. As of January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is $15.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $14.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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California's Law on Minimum Wage and Tips

According to 7Shifts, in California, employers are not allowed to claim a tip credit against the state's minimum wage [1]. This means that restaurants in California must pay their employees the full minimum wage, regardless of the amount of tips they receive. This policy differs from federal regulations and is one reason why operating costs for restaurants in California are higher compared to other states.

From the state’s Department of Industrial Relations: Unlike under federal regulations, in California, an employer can’t use an employee’s tips as a credit towards its obligation to pay the minimum wage. California law requires that employees receive the minimum wage plus any tips left for them by patrons of the employer's business.

Calculating overtime pay for tipped employees in California is relatively straightforward. Overtime pay is calculated by multiplying an employee's regular rate of pay, which is typically the California minimum wage, by one-and-a-half for all hours worked over 40 in a week. Tip income is not factored into this calculation, and employees get to keep all tips earned during both regular and overtime hours.

Also Read: Employer Withholding Tips?

Do Tips Change an Employee’s Minimum Wage or Regular Rate of Pay for Overtime Calculations?

Since tips are considered voluntary payments left by customers for employees, they do not impact an employee's regular rate of pay used for calculating overtime rates. Moreover, in California, tips cannot be used to offset the minimum wage obligation for employers. It's important for employers to pay employees at least the state (or local) minimum wage, regardless of the amount of tips they receive.

Is California a Tip Pooling State?

According to Nolo, California law permits tip pooling, where employees combine their tips for distribution among the group. However, employers must adhere to specific rules to establish a valid tip pool [2].

Eligible Employees: "Only certain employees can be included in the tip pool. Employees may be included in the tip pool only if they are in the "chain of service" that results in a tip from a particular customer. In general, servers, bartenders, hosts, and bussers are considered to be in the chain of service, while cooks, dishwashers, and cashiers are not. The one exception to the "chain of service" rule is that managers and supervisors cannot partake in the tip pool even if they provide direct table service."

  • Fair Distribution: Tips must be distributed fairly and reasonably. A system should be in place to determine how much each employee receives, usually based on the level of service provided. Typically, servers receive the largest share, followed by bussers, and then bartenders or hosts.
  • Example Distribution: The California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement has deemed an 80% share for wait staff, 15% for bussers, and 5% for bartenders as legal in a traditional restaurant setting. However, fairness is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Adhering to these guidelines ensures that tip pooling practices comply with California labor laws.

What is the Minimum Wage in California?

California's current minimum wage stands at $16.00 per hour. However, as of January 1, 2024, several cities within the state have implemented higher minimum wages.

Here are some examples:

  • Alameda: $16.52 per hour
  • Berkeley: $18.07 per hour
  • Los Angeles: $16.78 per hour
  • Oakland: $16.50 per hour
  • San Francisco: $18.07 per hour
  • San Jose: $17.55 per hour
  • Santa Monica: $16.90 per hour

California’s minimum wage laws are among the highest in the country. It has been incrementally increasing every year since 2017. Employers cannot contract around these minimum wage laws. Also, you cannot legally waive your rights to be paid a minimum wage.

5 Ways to Make More Money as a Server

According to SciTechDaily, research indicates that the size of a server's tip is often influenced by factors beyond the quality of service provided [3]. Here are some tips to help boost your tips:

  1. Introduce Yourself: Customers tend to tip friendly servers more. A proper introduction can make you seem polite and friendly, potentially increasing your earnings.
  2. Use Positive Body Language: Smiling and maintaining greater proximity can make you appear friendlier and more likable, leading to higher tips.
  3. Employ the Power of Touch: Casual touching, such as a brief touch on the shoulder or hand, has been shown to increase tips. Customers who are touched are more likely to leave a larger tip.
  4. Presentation Matters: For waitresses, a presentation can make a difference. Studies have shown that wearing red or makeup, and accessorizing hair, can lead to higher tips.
  5. Repeat the Order: Subtly imitating customers by repeating their orders can increase the likelihood of receiving a tip and lead to larger gratuities.

These strategies can help enhance your tips, but remember that providing excellent service should always be your top priority.

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