New York State is considering a wage change for tipped workers. The change would prohibit employers from paying tipped workers less than the minimum wage. If New York adopts the wage change it would be the eighth state to do so, joining Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California and Hawaii. Tipped workers in these states earn more money and are less likely to live below the poverty line.
Less than minimum wage
Currently, tipped employees must be paid at least $2.13 per hour with the remaining balance supplemented by tips. The current pay rate outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act has not changed since 1991. When the wage was set it was equivalent to 50 percent of the minimum wage, but now it is less than 30 percent. In New York City, tipped workers must be paid $8.65 per hour with tips making up the balance to reach the minimum wage of $13 per hour.
An at risk demographic
The wage discrepancy between what tipped workers are paid and the required minimum wage puts low-income workers at risk. They face wage theft and workplace exploitation from unscrupulous employers. When employees are working for tips, the tip money can be withheld by bosses and management, leaving the workers underpaid and adding to their financial struggles. A study by the Economic Policy Institute reported that nearly 84 percent of restaurants assessed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) were violating wages, including tip violations.
Breaking the cycle
Restaurant and hospitality workers make up more than 60 percent of tipped workers and nearly 46 percent of tipped workers rely on public assistance programs. Workers who rely on tips are less likely to have access to employer sponsored health care and paid time off, stretching their financial resources even further.
Doing away with the two tiered wage system would bridge the wage gap between tipped and non tipped employees and leave them less vulnerable. Governor Cuomo will be holding hearings next month before making a decision on pursuing the change.