Can My Employer Take My Tips?

In California, an employer may not reduce an employee’s tips for any reason because the tips are considered property of the employee(s) whom customers left the tips for.  Accordingly, employers cannot reduce employees’ earned wages by any amounts of tips received.  Employers also may not reduce employees’ tips by taking deductions from employees’ tips and paychecks for things like credit card processing fees, coupons, or customer comps.  Employers must provide all tip amounts to employees that patrons left the tips for.  Period. 

However, California courts have interpreted an exception that an employer may force employees to share tips with other staff where the employer has a mandatory tip pooling policy if the policy is reasonable, fair, and does not compensate managers, owners, or supervisors. For example, tip pooling among non-management front of the house staff such as all hosts, bussers, runners, servers, bar backs, and bartenders at a restaurant or bar probably does not violate the law.

(See Link(s): Labor Code Section 351)