Changes in Tipping Rules Could Affect Servers. Here’s What You Need to Know

cash being counted in woman's hands
Money from tips and clients is handled by Cat Keenam in Tampa, Fla. on Nov. 22, 2017. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Restaurant workers, listen up! A proposed change to tipping rules could affect how you’re paid.

The Department of Labor is proposing a change to a 2011 rule that allows restaurant workers to pocket all the tips they make.

If the DOL gets its way, restaurant owners will have the option to require workers to pool their tips with fellow employees who don’t have direct contact with customers and therefore don’t receive tips.

What Could This Mean for Restaurant Workers?

People in favor of the new rule say it would allow dishwashers, cooks and bussers to earn more money than they currently make.

People against it say it’s unfair to servers who earn tips by delivering good service. Others worry it could give restaurant owners the opportunity to keep all the tips for themselves.

Tip pooling works like this: In many states, the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour for servers who make more than $30 per month in tips.

Under the current law, if a restaurant owner elects to pay servers $2.13 per hour rather than the state’s regular minimum wage, any gratuities servers earn belong to them.

If the current rule is reversed, restaurant owners could elect to pay all their employees, including waitstaff, the state’s minimum wage and keep any tips servers make during their shift.

“I am sensitive to the disparity between back and front of house workers, but this proposed regulation allows an owner to pocket all the tips, or redistribute them,” Patricia Smith, senior counsel at the National Employment Law Project and former Obama administration solicitor of labor told Eater. “What if he or she chooses to pocket all of them and then no one gets the tips?”

How Can You Tell the Government What You Think?

If you’ve got feelings about the Department of Labor’s proposal and want to weigh in, you’ve got until Jan. 4, 2018 to let your voice be heard.

Head over to to register your opinion with the federal government.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has mad respect for restaurant workers.