Many workers in the service industry in Massachusetts, including servers in restaurants, earn tips as part of their job. However, the minimum wage laws that apply to tipped workers differ from the minimum wage laws that apply to non-tipped workers, with certain obligations being placed on employers of tipped workers. In either case, Massachusetts employers should be aware that the laws regarding the minimum wage are currently in flux.
By 2023, the minimum wage for workers in Massachusetts who earn tips along with their regular wages will grow to $6.75 an hour. This is different than the 2023 rise in minimum wage to $15 for non-tipped workers. In general, if a worker's base wage plus tips is lower than the current $12 minimum wage, their employer must pay the worker the difference.
A bill has been introduced in Massachusetts that would apply the standard minimum wage to all workers, thus eliminating the lower tipped wage. There is also a federal bill being proposed that would increase the federal minimum wage, while phasing out the federal tipped wage.
However, not everyone is on board with these proposals. The vice president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association claims that tipped workers are often the highest earners in a restaurant. He also says that if the tipped wage was increased, it would lead restaurant patrons to tip less. He believes the tipped wage should actually be decreased. He noted that, as menu prices increase, so does the amount a tipped worker earns, as people usually calculate their tip based on the bill for their meal.
In the end, however, to avoid being hit with a wage and hour claim, employers must pay workers the applicable minimum wage. Of course, the minimum wage does not apply to all workers, so employers must be aware of who it applies to and when, so they can remain within the confines of the law. However, the line between hourly workers, salaried workers and independent contractors is not always clear-cut. Therefore, employers with questions about wage and hour laws may want to seek professional advice from those familiar with employment law for employers.