While most people understand that the minimum wage, generally speaking, represents the lowest rate of hourly compensation many types of employers can legally pay to workers, not everyone has a solid grasp of the wage and hour specifics that apply to different types of business and workplaces. As of January 1, 2019, the minimum wage for employees in Florida was raised to a flat $8.46 per hour, an increase from $8.25 from the prior year. However, employees who receive a substantial portion of their pay from tips have their wages calculated in a slightly different manner.
The “tip credit” and its application to Florida workers
Individuals who customarily receive over $30 per month in tips in the course of their employment are considered to be “tipped employees” for the purposes of federal and Florida labor standards and regulations. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act provides that employers are permitted to take a so-called “tip credit” toward its obligation to pay tipped employees the prevailing cash minimum wage. In Florida, employers are required to pay such employees a minimum direct cash wage no lower than $5.44 per hour, a figure which, when combined with the $3.02 tip credit allowed by state law, totals the new hourly minimum wage of $8.46 per hour.
It should be noted that if a tipped employee in Florida does not at least earn $8.46, inclusive of tips, in an hour worked, the employer is responsible for making up the difference in their pay. If the employee earns in excess of that amount in a given hour of work, the employer is free to pay just the $5.44 tipped employee minimum for that hour.
Regrettably, there are simply too many employers who fail to comply with these legal requirements, and as a result their tip-based employees routinely receive insufficient compensation for the work they have performed. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recently issued a new “Notice to Employees” poster which must be placed in a conspicuous, easily seen location inside each workplace. The poster details the rights of employees to file complaints about an employer’s neglect of minimum wage laws and outlines the 15-day notice requirement that affords employers the opportunity to resolve unpaid wage claims before being subject to a civil suit in which they may be found liable for back wages, damages, fines and attorney fees.
How a wage and hour attorney can help tipped employees
Businesses utilizing the help of tipped employees are expected to comply fully with Florida’s minimum wage laws, and stiff penalties and consequences can follow for those who do not. It is essential that tipped employees stand up for their rights to receive the full amount of compensation they are due, and an experienced wage and overtime lawyer can play a vital role in helping them do precisely that. Though the process of of calculating actual amounts of back pay owed, producing key documentation and gathering critical witness statements may seem overwhelming, the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney can make things far easier than many aggrieved employees ever would have thought possible.