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What are your rights to tips?

Do you get tips at work? In some professions, it's very common to have tips from satisfied clients and customers supplement your income. For others, tips are a nice bonus that happens from time to time -- if you get to keep them.

If you aren't sure what your rights are when it comes to your tips, this is what you need to know:

1. Mandatory gratuities don't count as tips

By definition, a tip is payment that a customer voluntarily leaves in return for good service -- even if it is the usual practice and people seldom violate the rule of etiquette.

If your employer imposes a mandatory gratuity on certain guests -- your employer can claim it. Most won't, but you can run into the an employer who does.

2. Tips on credit card slips may be less than they appear

Your employer gets charged a convenience fee by the credit card companies for every charge. It's a percentage based on the total payment. Your employer can deduct a percentage equal to the credit card company's percentage from whatever the customer adds on as a tip.

In other words, if the tip is $10 and your employer gets charged 4 percent by the credit company, your employer can deduct 40 cents from your tip.

3. You are entitled to minimum wage even if you work for tips

In Florida, even though minimum wage is $8.05 per hour, your employer can pay you less than that as long as you make enough tips per hour to equal that minimum. That's called a tip credit.

If you don't make your tips, however, your employer must pay the difference.

4. Your employer can force you to pool your tips

Tip pooling means that you and other tipped employees have to share the tips evenly -- even if some of you earn far higher tips than others.

However, your employer cannot make you share your tips with employees who are not regularly tipped. For example, if you work at the bar, you can be obligated to share your tips with the wait staff. You can't be forced to share the tips with the cook, however, to reduce what your employer has to pay in wages.

If you don't think you are being treated fairly regarding your wages and tips, it may be time to look a lot harder at your legal rights.

Source: dol.gov, "Fact Sheet #15: Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)," accessed June 01, 2018

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