Complete Understanding of FLSA Regulations for Tipped Employees: A Comprehensive Guide


In understanding the labor market, it is essential to delve into the regulations governing various aspects of employment. One key legislation in the United States is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which covers the nuances of tipped employees. This comprehensive guide will provide intricate details regarding the policies, rights, and obligations of tipped employees under this significant piece of legislation.

What is a Tipped Employee under the FLSA?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a tipped employee is defined as any employee who regularly receives over $30 monthly in tips. Tips are considered to be a part of the compensation these workers receive for their service-centric job roles. It includes but is not limited to, workers such as servers, bellmen, and bartenders.

The Difference between Regular and Tipped Employees

While the hourly wage for most employees is minimal at $7.25, the FLSA allows employers to pay tipped workers a lower hourly wage of $2.13. This is called a tip credit, and it’s stemmed from the expectation that the employee will make up the difference in tips to reach the regular minimum wage.

It’s important, however, to highlight that the tipped employee’s total earning, including the tips, should never be less than the standard minimum wage. If it fails to reach the minimum wage, the employer is legally obliged to make up for the shortfall.

Tip Pooling and Tip Sharing

In some work environments, employees may practice tip pooling or sharing. In this, all tips are gathered together and then distributed equally among the tipped employees. The FLSA allows this practice, provided the employer notifies its employees about the arrangement beforehand.

Under the FLSA, however, employers or managerial staff aren’t allowed to take part in the tip pool. Tips received by tipped employees are solely their property and cannot be controlled or confiscated by the employer.

Overtime Pay for Tipped Employees

A crucial detail to consider under the purview of FLSA is the overtime policy for tipped employees. Under standard regulation, any employee who works more than 40 hours per week must be paid overtime pay, calculated at time-and-a-half of their hourly wage.

However, for tipped employees, overtime payments aren’t calculated on their reduced minimum wage of $2.13. Instead, it’s calculated on the full minimum wage of $7.25. This means, if a tipped employee qualifies for overtime, they should be paid a minimum of $10.88 per hour for every extra hour they work.

Keep Records of Employee Tips

Employers are obliged to keep meticulous records of the amounts tipped employees receive. These records serve as important documentation that can be reviewed whenever issues surrounding wages or tipped income arise. They should clearly indicate how many tips each employee receives and whether a tip pool is in effect.

Compliance with State and Federal Laws

In addition to regular federal wage laws, certain states might have their own regulations governing tipped employees. These state laws, if they exist, should be adhered to alongside FLSA regulations, particularly when they provide even more benefits than the federal law.

For example, seven states known as equal treatment states — California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Alaska, and Minnesota — do not allow tip credits. In these states, tipped employees must be paid the full state minimum wage before tips.


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides extensive rights and protections for tipped employees, ensuring they receive fair wages for the work they do. Between these protections and the unique rules and regulations that each state can implement, it’s essential for both employees and employers to stay informed and maintain compliance to avoid legal repercussions.

By equipping themselves with this understanding of the FLSA’s provisions for tipped employees, individuals can better navigate the complexities of their roles and responsibilities in the labor market, achieving better outcomes for everyone involved.

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