Some FAQs About Tipped Employees and the Minimum Wage

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If you are a “tipped employee” in Oklahoma, is your employer treating you fairly under federal and state minimum wage laws, or are you being ripped off?

If you earn some of your wages in the form of tips as a restaurant waiter or waitress, bartender, bar server, bellhop, nail salon technician, etc., laws at the federal and state level protect your right to receive a minimum wage and to keep the tips you earn.

Blog Series on Tipped Employees: Part 1

Many tipped employees don’t know their rights and protections. Some employers don’t seem to know the laws, either — or they just choose to ignore them. Many tipped employees are people whom unethical employers might attempt to take advantage of, including teenagers, young adults, women and minorities.

The law’s the law. People who work hard to serve the public deserve to be paid their fair wage.

According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.4 million restaurant waiters and waitresses in the nation. Their average wage is $10.40/hour, which is $21,640/year for a 40-hour work week.

However, that average is skewed slightly by the wages of waiters and waitresses who work at expensive restaurants, where generous tips are the norm. The median wage — the exact middle value of the range — is $9.01/hour ($18,730 annually), which means half of the nation’s waiters and waitresses earn less than that.

Here are some answers to a few Frequently Asked Questions about tipped employees. In my next blog post, I will discuss some Frequently Asked Questions about Tip Credits. In the blog post after that, I will discuss “Ways Some Employers Are Ripping Off Their Tipped Employees.”

1. Who is considered a tipped employee under the law? A tipped employee is anyone who regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. Workers who receive tips during the holidays or other special events are not necessarily classified as tipped employees — the tips must be a part of the worker’s regular income.

2. What is the minimum wage for a tipped employee? The minimum wage for almost all Oklahoma workers under both federal and state law is $7.25/hour. Employers are required to make sure their tipped employees are receiving that minimum wage.

That is supposed to be accomplished in two ways:

a. Oklahoma employers are required to pay tipped employees base pay of $3.625/hour. That’s half the required minimum wage. That is Oklahoma’s requirement, which exceeds the federal required base pay for tipped employed of $2.13/hour. Oklahoma employers must meet the state requirement.

b. If an employee earns enough tips to cover the other half of the minimum wage, an employer is allowed to treat those tips as a “tip credit” and consider the minimum wage as met. However, if the tips are not enough to cover the remaining half of the minimum wage, the employer must pay the remainder, so that the tipped employee ends up earning the minimum.

For example, Jo, an excellent waitress at an upscale restaurant, makes $15/hour in tips. Janeen, an average waitress at a burger joint, makes $7/hour in tips. Jim, who really needs to find another line of work, makes $2/hour in tips.

Jo’s, Janeen’s and Jim’s Oklahoma employers pay each of them base pay of $3.625/hour. Jo’s and Janeen’s tips are enough to cover the remainder of their minimum wage as a “tip credit.” Joe is still coming up short; his employer must pay an additional $1.625/hour to bring Joe’s wage up to the minimum.

3. Are any employers/employees exempt from the minimum wage law?

There are a few exceptions, including:

  • Persons under the age of 20 may be paid a first-90-days training wage of $4.25/hour.
  • The laws contain some different language for Oklahoma employers who have less than 10 full-time employees at one location and gross annual sales of less than $100,000.

Tip Credits

In the next post of this blog series, I will answer these questions about the “tip credit”:

  • Is the tip credit calculated by the hour, the day or the week?
  • How does the employer know how much in tips an employee has received?
  • What additional requirements govern how the employer applies the tip credit?

For More Information Contact Our Attorneys

Are you a waiter, waitress or other tipped employee in Oklahoma who is being taken advantage of by your employer? Are you earning the full minimum wage? Are you being paid for overtime? Are you being allowed to keep your tips?

Hasbrook & Hasbrook is one of Oklahoma’s leading firms handling employment law claims. If you believe you are not being treated fairly in your workplace, contact us for a free consultation.

A successful lawsuit could result in compensation for unpaid wages, as well as other possible harms and losses. If you have a sound claim, we will take your case on contingency, which means you pay nothing upfront, and we get paid only if your lawsuit is successful.

Contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook by telephone (866-416-4737), email ( or use our website contact form: Contact Us.

Clayton Hasbrook practices in the area of general litigation, with an emphasis on personal injury law. In 2008 Clayton earned his Juris Doctorate degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Clayton is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, Oklahoma County Bar Association, American Association of Justice, Oklahoma Association of Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers “Top 40 under 40.”