As a tipped employee, you count on those tips to make up your wages. In fact, getting tips is a big part of why you got into this industry in the first place.
In Kentucky, you do have to get paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in any job that you do. With tip credits, though, your company only has to pay you $2.13. As long as your tips make up the difference and get you to at least minimum wage, that’s legal.
People often say that tipped workers don’t even make minimum wage, but that’s not true. If your tips aren’t enough to cover the difference, your employer has to pay you more to get you up to an average of $7.25. You should always make minimum wage.
That’s why a boss who takes your tips — in full or partially — is such a problem. Without that money, you really are earning just $2.13 an hour. That’s not even close to a living wage and taking tips is a form of wage theft.
Even if you go over $7.25 per hour, you are entitled to your own tips. For instance, if you wound up making $20 per hour on your shift — roughly $18 per hour in tips — your boss cannot take part of that money to bring you back down to minimum wage. You are legally entitled to at least minimum wage, but it’s also fine for you to go over that mark and earn more.
Wage theft does happen, unfortunately, and employees need to make sure they know what options they have. You don’t have to let a dishonest employer take your wages.