Server Minimum Wage

Since 1933, the U.S. has observed very strict minimum wage laws. Over the years, there have been many changes to these laws, including the dissolution of the minimum wage, the reinstatement of the wage and many increases in the wage. Most recently, the federal government handed over power to the states to determine what the individual state minimum wages are. Each state may select to increase the minimum wage above the national wage, which is $5.15, but it may not decrease the way below the national standard.

While the minimum wage is set at $5.15, it is recognized that the server minimum wage is not exactly that high…on paper. When it comes to the server minimum wage, each state has its own wage set. That wage is generally just over $2.00, but rarely much more. This minimum wage serves as a very base salary for servers who are on the clock serving tables. If a server needs to come in during a time when he or she is not serving, then the server must be paid at least the base minimum wage for the state and locality. For example, if a server needs to come into a restaurant for a cleaning day, then the server needs to make more than he or she would normally make for base pay.

The reason that the server minimum wage is so low is simple: servers make tips. At the end of each shift, servers are required to report how much money they earned during the course of their shift. That amount must equal or exceed the minimum wage. Thus, the server minimum wage is a base rate, but the server generally makes much more than the minimum wage.

It is important to note that servers must report the full amount of their tips. Often, when tips are factored into the equation, the server minimum wage becomes a secondary source of income, as the tips tend to exceed the minimum wage by a great deal.

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67 Thoughts on “Server Minimum Wage”

michelle ward

September 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Hi my daugher is a new server in Wisconsin. She was told that as long as she make more than miniumum wage, the restaurant doesn not have to pay her the state minimum wage for servers. I thought this amount had to be paid in addition to any tips she received. In Illinois my daughter would always get a small paycheck representing the hours she worked at server’s minimum wage. Here in Wisconsin she has not received a paycheck since she started and she was told that is because she has consistently made more than minimum wage. Is that correct?


September 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Hi michelle! This may be illegal, or it may be a miscommunication. Under Wisconsin law, servers must be paid at least $2.33 per hour, regardless of how much tips they are making. A server under the age of 20 can be paid just $2.13 per hour, for the first 90 days, assuming she earns enough tips to average the minimum wage.

However, the employer is required by low to deduct state and federal income tax and social security from those wages, based on the employees entire earnings, including tips. (In addition, in some cases group health insurance is deducted from the paycheck.) Under federal and state law, the employer must pay your daughter on a regular basis, either every week or every two weeks. She should at least be receiving a paycheck for $0 and a check stub that shows where the money went. However, if your daughter is making good tips, it is possible that these taxes are eating up her entire check, meaning she receives nothing on her payroll check.

But if the employer is genuinely not issuing a payroll check at all, that would be illegal. You should report it to the Wisconsin Department of Labor at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Read more about this at:


November 16, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Hi, I’m a server at a restaurant in Texas. I’ve been working for 6 months and haven’t received any check for my $2.13 an hour, and when I asked about it, I was told the owner keeps it all to pay our taxes for us every year. Is this legal? Thanks.


November 17, 2010 at 7:18 am

Hi Jan! No, this is not legal. Under both federal and state law, a server must be paid wages of at least $2.13 per hour. It is possible that if you are earning hundreds of dollars in tips nightly, your income tax deduction will eat up your entire check. However, in that case you should still receive a payroll check for $0 and a paystub that itemizes your earnings, tips, deductions and withholding.

Our suspicion is that this employer is not paying social security or employment taxes, and is instead merely keeping your wages for himself. It appears employees are being duped into believing their income taxes have been paid, when they have not. This, of course, is illegal. You should file a wage claim with the Texas Workforce Commission at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

December 8, 2010 at 4:20 am

Hi, I work for a locally owned one of a kind restuarant in the state of Georgia. As the business is new and opened at the beginning of “off season”, clientele has been low and thus my tips are terrible. I have not made anything close to minimum wage ($2.50 hrly + tips) in several months. I spoke to the wait staff manager who directed me to the store manager who directed me to the owner who directed me back to the store manager who said he would look into it. Needless to say nothing is being done. The store manager and wait staff manager did agree that the pay was not right, but one fired the other and nothing is going to be done about it now. I want to file a claim with the department of labor, but I cannot find all of my check stubs since I recently moved. Will the DOL go through company records or only use what I provide? Thanks!


December 8, 2010 at 8:15 am

Hi Sasha! Good news! The Department of Labor will inspect the company records. If they find that you have not earned at least the minimum wage for hours worked, they will force the employer to pay the difference. So you can go ahead and file a wage complaint either with the Georgia Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Labor at If you find your check stubs at some point, that’s great, but do not wait to file the wage complaint.

You may also want to start looking for a better job. Many restaurants fail in the first year or two of operation, and these guys don’t sound like the sharpest crayons in the box, if you understand what we mean. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


February 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

i had a couple walk out on a dinner ticket. the owner makes servers pay for tickets that have been skipped out on out of our own pocket. is this legal?


February 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hi Lauren! In many states it is illegal for the employer to charge servers for walk-outs. Which state are you in? ~ Caitlin


March 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Hi, i live in the state of Missouri and I know working as a waitress you can get paid 7.25/hrs or half of that. I get paid 7.25 an hr and 10% tip. Does my bosses have to give me tip or no?? Or as long as I’m getting paid 7.25 then that’s it?? So am I entile to all my tips of I get paid minmium wage??


March 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

Hi Kristen! Unfortunately, this is probably legal as long as you are being paid at least the state minimum wage. Contact the Missouri Division of Labor Standards at for a reading on your particular situation. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


March 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Hi, I work in Texas at a restaurant-movie theater hybrid. On normal shifts, hosts and box office attendants make $7.25. Bartenders and food runners make about $6.00 plus tips and/or tip share. Servers make $2.13 plus tips. However, since business is slow on weekday mornings, only one experienced employee runs the entire front of house (the only other employees there are a cook and a manager). That means running around like crazy trying to sell tickets, host, run food, bartend AND serve at the same time…for a fraction of the sales! On, these weekday mornings, I only get paid $2.13 an hour to do almost every job in the building. Is this legal?


March 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Hi Lindsay! It may not be legal. Under both federal and Texas law, a food server or tipped employee can be paid just $2.13 per hour. However, there are limits to the amount and type of non-food-service work that the employee can be required to do, unless she is paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Contact the TWC, the Texas Workforce Commission at for a reading on your specific situation. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


April 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I used to work in a MEXICAN RESTAURANT IN North Laurel, Maryland
They never said into their policy (they have none written) they charge SERVERS for their mistakes, or miss understanding. For example If a customer ordered a burrito. The menu says that the burrito comes with rice inside. And the customer rejected by saying they did not notice or by saying that they thought that it came on the side…. the management will charge the server because they are supposed to explain the dish. Same with drinks!

The server most of the time will never have the product either, specially if is a Drink.

What makes it even worse is that the charge full price not event cost or discount….full price.

There is any law that I could show to them? Is that legal?

I stopped working there but I would love to do a favor for my fellows ex-coworkers that in fact most of them are illegals.

I will truly appreciated it

Thanks in advance


April 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Hi francisco! This policy is harsh and completely unfair. If it results in the employees earning less than the state minimum wage for hours worked, it may be illegal. You can file a wage complaint with the Maryland Department of Labor, Liscensing and Industry at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Roderick Klugh

June 27, 2014 at 2:08 am

Im a server in the state of Texas. I make about $1,500-$1,700 every 2 weeks. My pay stub says I made $2,005. I get paid $2.13/hr. The restaurant I work I went 19 hrs of overtime. Now my rate of now for over time is $5.98/hr. That added up is $116 about. Now on my pay stub in the net pay box it says $0.00. Shouldn’t I see the overtime hours regardless of what my tips for 2 weeks are?


June 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

Roderick, if we understand your question correctly, you are saying that when you work 19 hours of overtime as a tipped employee your hourly wages are about $116 more in wages. Your question is, shouldn’t your paycheck therefore be $116 more than usual?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. You still owe taxes on the tips you earned during those extra hours of work. It would be very common for the extra taxes to be more than $116, meaning your paycheck could be the same or even less than if you worked no overtime.

Of course, we can’t see your pay stub, and there is no standard form for it. You should certainly ask your employer calmly and respectfully to explain it to you. But we suspect this will be the answer.


November 14, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I just quit my waitress job at the Japanese Restaurant. They called me come to restaurant hour early to clean all the restaurant. I asked my boss that are you going to pay minium payment ($7.25) for the cleaning time since I do not wait table. She yelled at me and said no and you have big mistake to saying that. She could not hold her temper and I quit. I really do not think right to hire someone who clean the restaurant for $2.50. (I always spend hour for preparing foods and ready for the dishes for $2.50 already. And, I understand that. But, not come 2 hour early for the cleaning. )
In this situation, was my action right?

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