Minimum Wage for Servers in California

Minimum Wage for Servers in California

Minimum wage for servers in California is the same as it is elsewhere in the state – regardless of the fact that waiters and waitresses receive tips. Tips don’t count toward minimum wage for servers in California. Employers must pay them the state’s standard minimum wage.

What You Need to Know About Minimum Wage for Servers in California

Servers at restaurants and bars are entitled to the same wages that everyone else in the state is entitled to. Right now, California is working its way up to a minimum wage of $15 per hour across all industries. Each year, our minimum wage goes up by $1.

This table shows the minimum wage increases – and which employers they apply to – that will take place in California until 2023.

Year 25 Employees or Fewer 26 or More Employees
2019 $11/hour $12/hour
2020 $12/hour $13/hour
2021 $13/hour $14/hour
2022 $14/hour $15/hour
2023 $15/hour

These minimum wage laws help guarantee that servers and people in other tipped professions can earn a living wage, even if there are no customers coming in or they don’t earn much in tips.

Do Restaurants Have to Pay Minimum Wage?

California's Minimum Wage for Servers and Tipped EmployeesRestaurants have to pay everyone at least the minimum wage, from the back of the house to the front of the house. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dishwasher or the head bartender – your employer is required by law to pay you the state’s minimum wage based on the table above.

If your employer pays you less than minimum wage or claims that your tips contribute to the minimum wage requirement, you may need to talk to a Glendale employment lawyer.

Related: Minimum wage disputes and unpaid overtime

What About “Mom and Pop” Restaurants?

The law allows for employers with fewer than 25 employees to pay a lower minimum wage than bigger businesses must pay. It’s lower by $1 per hour, which is meant to alleviate payroll stresses for small employers. If you work in a small restaurant with fewer than 25 employees, you’re subject to a $1-less minimum wage than someone who works in a larger restaurant with more than 26 employees.

However, by 2023, things will even out and you will be entitled to the same pay.

Related: Wages in California

What if Your Employer Fails to Pay You Minimum Wage as a Server?

Sometimes employers claim that a person’s tips contribute to the minimum wage requirement. These employers may pay you a low wage – let’s say $5 per hour – and say that the tips you earn will bring you up to the current minimum wage.

In some states, that’s perfectly legal – but it’s not in California. If your employer says this, you can point out that California’s wage and hour laws say otherwise. However, be aware that you may need to talk to an employment attorney to resolve the situation.

What if You’re an Undocumented Immigrant? Are You Entitled to Minimum Wage for Servers?

Minimum Wage for Servers in California - Employment Law in GlendaleUndocumented immigrants are entitled to the same minimum wages that other employees are entitled to receive. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, or MSPA (which doesn’t apply to restaurant workers, but is worth mentioning) cover undocumented workers at the federal level. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor says, “The Department’s Wage and Hour Division will continue to enforce the FLSA and MSPA without regard to whether an employee is documented or undocumented.”

If you are an undocumented worker, you can make a claim against your employer. Here are the laws that protect you:

  • AB 263 prohibits employers from threatening you using your immigration status as a way to retaliate against you for exercising your labor rights
  • AB 524 covers threats related to your immigration status and provides for possible criminal penalties if your employer threatens you
  • AB 450 provides you with due process if you’re part of an I-9 worksite audit

This isn’t a complete list, either. The bottom line is that even if you’re an undocumented worker, you are entitled to the minimum wage for servers in California. If your employer says otherwise, you can contact an employment lawyer to learn about the next steps you should take.

Are You Making Minimum Wage for Servers in California?

If your employer has refused to pay you minimum wage and you’re a tipped worker, you may have legal recourse.

Call us right away at 818-230-8380 for a free consultation with an employment lawyer. We may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.


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