Can your employer take your tips?

You have a tip jar on the front counter when you are at work. Customers frequently stuff in a few dollars or at least their spare change. By the end of the night, you often have a good amount of money in the jar.

You never know how much, though, because your employer always takes your tips. He or she claims they're given to the business in general, and collects them every night. Even if they are "for the business," you never see anything, so it's clear to you that your employer just pockets them.

Is there any way this is legal? Customers only interact with you. Those tips are clearly intended for you. Can your employer take them?

No. Under New York law, your employer cannot accept or demand your tips, either directly or indirectly. Even if tips are put on credit cards, your employer cannot keep them. This is true whenever a customer leaves a tip behind specifically for one of the employees, yourself included. The law also applies to any worker in the private sector, in any industry.

Generally speaking, this law applies to those working in bars, restaurants and hotels. However, official government documents also note that it covers workers in other occupations, such as hairdressers, attendants at a car wash, valets and golf instructors. On top of that, this law also covers door workers at hotels, apartment buildings and other such locations.

It is very important for both employees and employers to understand how this law works. Violations are not taken lightly. Both sides must be very clear on the wage and hour laws and how money must change hands.

Source: New York Department of Labor, "Tips and Gratuities Frequently Asked Questions," accessed June 07, 2018

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