If a California employer is keeping tips meant for employees, it is a matter of serious concern. State law is clear: employers cannot take or share any portion of an employee’s tips.
However, not everyone is aware of their rights, and some may not know what to do if they find themselves in this situation. Here is a basic understanding of wage and tip laws, and how to handle these situations.
Understanding California tip law
California Labor Code Section 351 prohibits employers from taking any gratuity patrons leave for employees, or any part thereof. This means that all tips a customer leaves belong solely to the employee or employees who provided the service.
Steps to take if an employer is keeping tips
If an employee suspects their employer is keeping tips, they should first gather evidence. Keep track of the tips earned and compare them with the tips received. Any discrepancies could serve as evidence of the employer’s illegal actions.
After gathering evidence, employees should consider confronting their employer about the issue. Sometimes, they can resolve this misunderstanding with a conversation. If this does not work, or if the employee fears retaliation, they should report the matter to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.
Protections for workers and consequences for employers
California law offers protections for workers who report illegal activities, including tip theft. You can not fire, demote or have your workers face any negative consequences for reporting such activities. If retaliation occurs, employers may face additional fines and penalties.
Employers who keep tips can face severe penalties, including reimbursement of the stolen tips, payment of interest on those tips and payment of a civil penalty.
California law is clear: Tips belong to the employees who earned them. If an employer is keeping tips, employees should take steps to address the issue and protect their rights. If necessary, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office is there to help ensure that workers receive the wages they have rightfully earned.