Restaurant owner keeps server’s tips/ is this legal?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Restaurant owner keeps server’s tips/ is this legal?

I recently started working at a family-owned restaurant in Beverly Hills, CA in a
server/cashier/barista position. I found out today that the servers do not keep
the credit card tips they received from customers while taking their orders.
Instead, the owner keeps them to help supplement the business’s income because
‘running a restaurant is expensive’ and that we don’t really deserve the tips
because we are behind the counter for too long and they dont need to let us keep
it because it’s a ‘fast casual’ restaurant. The place is doing very well for a
new business and while I understand that it cost money, I don’t think it’s right
to keep tips meant for servers when we work hard for them. When I asked if this
was illegal, she said no because it is fast casual. What does that even mean and
does that have any impact on whether we can keep our tips?

Asked on March 7, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It is not legal: restaurants and their owners or managers may NOT keep tips left for tippable staff (e.g. waiters, bus persons, bar tenders). There is no exception for "fast casual": if a tip is left for the wait, etc. staff, it belongs to and must go to them.  The staff who are being deprived of their tips may wish to contact the state departmant of labor to look into filing a complaint.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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