Bill Would Compel Higher Cash Wages For Tipped Employees


A bill introduced recently by U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D. Md.) would amend the federal Fair Labor Standards Act to require many employers to boost their direct cash payments to tipped employees by 76% within 90 days after passage, even though these employees are already receiving (by law) at least the FLSA minimum wage in combined tips and cash wages. A year later, the cash-wage requirement would be $5.00 (135% higher than the current level). In two years, the figure would increase to $5.50 (158% higher than today) or 70% of the FLSA minimum wage, whichever is more. H.R. 631 would be known as the WAGES Act ("Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services").

The bill's stated purpose, "to establish a base minimum wage for tipped employees," is misleading: Tipped employees are now, and would continue be, covered by the existing FLSA minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). The bill would not change or expand this obligation. What the amendment would actually do might be more-accurately stated this way: "To increase the employer's direct wage costs by mandating an increase in its cash wages paid to tipped employees, who are already guaranteed by law to make at least the same FLSA minimum wage that applies to all other workers."

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