New York passed legislation at the end of last year to reduce wage theft and increase wage equality. Due to come into place from the beginning of next year it is of particular relevance to restaurant workers.
For years, employers have been allowed to pay workers a reduced rate if staff receive tips that take them above the minimum wage. In New York City minimum wage is $15 per hour. However, employers are allowed to pay those who earn low tips $13.85 per hour and those who make high tips $13.15 per hour. These figures for tipped employees rose from $12.75 and $11.35 in July this year. From 2021 every employer must pay a minimum of $15; thus, abolishing the lower wages for tipped workers.
Some restaurants moved to abolish tips earlier, raising their rate of pay in accordance. The Union Square Hospitality Group was one of these. However, they have decided to temporarily allow tips to give staff any extra income they can get. They will introduce a revenue-sharing system to reduce the vast earning advantage the customer-facing staff has over the non-customer facing team.
If you work in the kitchen of a restaurant, you may feel you are entitled to a share of the tips, but New York law states that you must spend 80% of the time front-of-house to be entitled to them. If you have complied with the 80% requirement and not received a share of gratuities, you may have a claim. Tip skimming is just one form of wage theft that some New York restaurant owners have gotten away with for too long. Seek legal help from a New York employment law attorney if you believe you have a case.