Opinion: Tipped employees need higher wages

Logan Raschke, Managing Editor

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Tipped employees should get paid minimum wage (or higher, if employers choose) in addition to the tips they earn. This should apply everywhere in the U.S.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can pay their tipped employees at minimum $2.13 an hour.

In other states, including Illinois, employers must pay a minimum cash wage above $2.13, but it can still be well below the state’s minimum wage. 

However, this doesn’t mean employers can get away with only paying their tipped employees $2.13 an hour — people need to make minimum wage. That means if an employee makes less than $9.25 per hour (in Illinois as of January 2020) during his or her shift in combined tips and minimum pay, the employer has to give a tip credit to make up the difference (that credit is maxed at $5.12 under the FLSA).

There are also special rules that consider factors like businesses’ size and gross income, and some states have different laws that certainly have an effect on these wages.

From there, it’s up to the employers to decide whether or not they want to enforce a tip pool, wherein the employees have to share their tips with others.

Tipped employees should earn their states’ minimum wages on top of the tips they earn.

It is customary in the U.S. to tip our waiters and waitresses, barbers and hairstylists, and others working in certain service industries.

But while it is customary, it is not required.

It doesn’t matter how impeccable the service is. At the end of the day, the customer does not have to tip.

Illinois and every other state should join the other seven that are required to pay their employees full-state minimum wages before tips. 

Besides the fact that tips are not guaranteed, I believe it would improve the livelihoods of a large demographic of working individuals who are likely close to the federal poverty threshold ($12,760 a year for households with one person).

Many employers choose to maintain their employees in part-time positions to avoid having to provide benefits.

This means some tipped employees are working just under 40 hours a week, make minimum wage and do not qualify for benefits.

Making this pay adjustment a requirement would also likely improve more workers’ quality of service.

If employees are guaranteed to make a minimum wage in addition to tips, they’re not as worried about their salaries; there’s a higher money-making potential there.

Where quality of life improves, quality of service is likely to improve, too.

And let’s face it; this country has a longstanding prejudice against minimum-wage workers.

They are hardly even allowed 30-minute breaks during 8- or 9-hour shifts.

We need to respect our service workers, and while making this pay requirement wouldn’t put an end to the unfair prejudices, it would still have some positive impact.

Logan Raschke is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]