Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda Know Nothing About Tipped Wages

$2.13 an hour sounds like an immoral rate of pay. Only a cold-hearted jerk would pay a hard-working (or even a lazy) employee $2.13 an hour. This is why Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s campaign to raise the tipped minimum wage to at least the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) tugs at heartstrings.

Their Facebook video has over 2.5 million views, after being posted on October 31. That’s pretty viral, as far as videos about wait staff pay are concerned. They make plenty of good points–$2.13 an hour is barely enough for a cheap cup of coffee, or maybe you could get two candy bars if they are on sale.

They are also 100 percent wrong.

No waiter or waitress legally receives only $2.13 an hour. Minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour (federally) or whatever your state minimum wage is. Here’s what the law requires (emphasis mine)

To keep reading, click here: Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda Know Nothing About Tipped Wages

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15 thoughts on “Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda Know Nothing About Tipped Wages

  1. Would Lily and Jane support raising the minimum to $7.25/hour, but making employers responsible for accounting and disbursement of all tips in excess of $5.12/hour?

    Yeah, I thought not.

  2. Very informative and point on post. We have far too many Hollywood types (like these and Oprah and the late nite talk hosts) commenting about subjects they are clueless on.
    It is always a bad idea to accept workplace guidance from someone making millions a year to do very little.

  3. Is it illegal for restaurant owners not to make up the difference between $2.13/hour and the minimum wage if their servers’ tips fall short? Yes. Do restaurant owners abide by that law? Not necessarily. My son is a long-term general manager of a local chain of restaurants and I have also had extensive long-term experience working in various restaurants. In none of the restaurants with which we have been involved does management even know how much their servers make in tips, much less make up the difference should the tips fall short. The servers don’t complain to the authorities because they are good, successful, restaurants, that treat everyone well, so they average much more than the minimum wage in tips. In order for employers to know how much their servers make in tips, they either have to engage in tip-sharing — which servers hate — or use inaccurate information based on estimates or on the amounts the servers self-report. I don’t know what personal experience Fonda and Tomlin have had with servers and their tips, but — based on my family’s experience — cannot say that they are “wrong.”

    1. Given the prevalence of credit card use in restaurants, I suspect that most owners/managers can make a pretty fair estimate of time income, since they *do* see that.

  4. Just curious..I’ve heard that a change to the law is under consideration such that tips would belong to the employer, not the server. If this were to happen, would that change your opinion?

  5. Everyone knows they’re wrong and that management has to cash up to the federal minimum wage. Everyone ALSO knows that in reality that doesn’t happen.

    Numerous lawsuits involving even famous restauranteurs like Mario Batali prove this. Many many workers are of shaky immigration status or are young, or are poor and do not have the ability to sue for wages for fear of losing or getting blacklisted in the industry.

    You only have the rights you can afford to litigate after all.

    They’re right. The way to fix this is to drop the tipped minimum. Trying to use a short advert video to explain that while the law says x nobody does it, is not a good use of their time and talent and would cause people who would otherwise vote to go to full minimum wage to stop pushing for it even when in reality many many many restaurant workers are not MAKING minimum.

    They’d argue that if the law says you have to pay them, they must be getting paid, therefore the tipped minimum WORKS. This is not true.

    It’s disingenuous to call them on the technical law of the matter when the reality of the matter is closer to what they are saying.

    You can’t charge people for things that bring them below minimum either and those same restaurants charge for uniforms or design a uniform that can be worn outside the building so that they can’t be made to pay for it as a work expense nor can it be deducted on taxes.

    1. Agreed, I’ve never known a restaurant worker who received $7.25 an hour when they received no tips. They have no idea, their managers have no idea, and in some cases the restaurant owners don’t know the law. No one has ever told me that they receive $7.25 on slow nights.
      Servers are also frequently charged for broken dishes which is against the law.
      Of course any employee can complain or sue, but then they are out of a job. It would be nice if restaurants followed the law, but no one is checking on them so this happens EVERYWHERE.

  6. You are probably right that Tomlinson and Fonda aren’t experts in this hat particular law. But I’d still argue that the minimum should be raised. The minimum tipped wage has been stuck at $2.13 for 26 years, while the regular minimum wage has increased by over 70% since then. At present the tipped wage is barely enough to cover taxes; it needs to be raised periodically just as the regular minimum wage is raised to keep up with inflation.

  7. When I was last waiting table (mmmrph years ago) the owner never knew what tips we received. He simply assumed that they covered the gap between what he paid and minimum wage. Being very young I proposed to tell him what we actually got to assure that he topped us up to minimum wage. But the elder waitstaff gave me a verbal whap on the head with a spoon over that. They were claiming no tips for tax purposes and didn’t want me to let anyone know that we were getting tipped at all. So the boss said we got plenty and the waitstaff said we got none and no one questioned the difference. Does it work differently now?

  8. With the push to raise minimum wage to $15, this law is arcadic in both meaning and function. Tipping income is slowly becoming obsolete, especially since reporting the amount ofthat income depends on the individual receiving it. Most people under-report to avoid tax liablity.
    I believe that most restaurants are actually doing away with using this system by including cost of the wages in the cost of entrees served and inform clientel of the no tippig policy.
    Todays servers aren’t making progressive efforts in customer service to increase tips as much as they are concerned with a fair wage. How many of us would tip that suggested 20% to someone who’s making $15/ hourly to serve you while you are paying a higher cost for that dinner. I tip whenever I am served at a sitdown setting but my income will very close to what these servers will earn at $15/hourly and I had to have skills to do my job.
    Tip income is assuming people getting tips make under minimum wage but unless one is living in the boondocks (very rare), most people get minimum wage. I am referring to federal minimum wage versus places like Seatle and New York where the minimum is the higher rate.

    1. Restaurants that try to do away with tipping get a lot of resistance from customers, who want the option of “not leaving a tip” for bad service. Except, of course, bad service has very little effect on tipping, but people want to feel they have some control.

      Restaurants that have successfully converted to no tipping are, generally speaking, pretty happy with it, and so are they staff. Generally speaking. Waitresses who have the sort of outgoing, friendly personalities that you want in staff like not feeling like they’re prostituting themselves for more money, and the quality of service overall goes up. (In reality, the biggest factor in how much wait staff makes in tips is how many tables they’re handling. Slightly lower tips from lower quality service is far more than made up for by having more tables. In that sense, tipping actually encourages *bad* service.)

  9. The problem is that the wages have to come out to 7.25/hr for the week not the day. They usually calculate based on 10% tip for the meal cost. So on Fri you work dinner, lots of tables, 10% of the checks comes out to a large amount. Tuesday you work lunch, not much work, your 2.13/hr plus tips comes nowhere near minimum wage. You end up really paying to work on Tues with your wages on Fri. Add in unpaid prep work and you are screwed unless you are at the very best restaurants. Even if we say tipped wage should be less than minimum wage, why does tip wage never go up? It’s been the same for decades. We need a change.

  10. “Overall, just don’t get your labor law advice from Hollywood.”

    Overall, just don’t get advice on *anything* from Hollywood. they really don’t live in the same world as everyone else. By choice.

  11. I’m a tax professional and I don’t buy it. IRS regularly makes its own estimates of the tips employees get (which tend to be unbelievably high, especially in fast food places where the norm is never to tip at all). Then they tell the employer this “allocated tips” amount and require him to divide it among his employees’ W-2s, with NO oversight of how fairly he does so. Further, unless the employee has his own record, courts are going to assume that these allocations are accurate.

    So I urge my clients who are restaurant employees to keep a daily log of how much they receive in tips each day. (A vest pocket notebook is ideal for this, and you only need to write in it once a day, when you go off shift.) With that record, you avoid having to pay tax on “allocated tips” you didn’t receive, AND if paid less than minimum wage you can file a claim with your state’s labor board and expect to win.

  12. Several states already have this law on the books: there is no difference between the tipped and regular state minimum wage, and those wages range from a little over $8/hr to $11/hr, depending on the state that requires the same wage.

    Tips are not treated differently by customers in any of those states, from my experience. People still tend to tip a certain percentage (depending on the area, usually between 15-30%) of the bill, but the only difference is that it isn’t making up the rest of a server’s minimum wage requirement.

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