DC voters recently approved Initiative 77, which requires restaurants to pay waiters and bartenders the regular minimum wage, $12.50 per hour. This puts an end to the law that permitted restaurants to pay tipped employees a substantially-reduced minimum wage.
The old law
The old law required restaurants to pay waiters and bartenders a reduced minimum wage of $3.33/hour. Therefore, employers only had to pay more if tipped employees didn’t get enough tips to receive the regular minimum wage.
Pros and cons of Initiative 77
Proponents of Initiative 77 argue that tipped employees deserve to have a steady, predictable income. In addition, they claim that tipped workers are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment, and that employers do not always comply with the requirement to make up the difference in minimum wage if employees don’t earn enough tips.
However, opponents of the new law argue that Initiative 77 will negatively affect restaurant owners, employees, and patrons. Opponents contend that most wait staff already earn more than the minimum wage because of tips. Employees may actually make less if diners don’t tip. Furthermore, the new law could put smaller restaurants out of business, and will likely result in higher menu prices.
What happens next
A majority of DC Council members oppose the Initiative. Therefore, the DC Council or the Mayor may try to block or amend Initiative 77 in the coming months. For now, DC tipped employees will continue to earn $3.33 per hour, plus tips, until the new law is enacted.
If you are a tipped employee who is not paid in compliance with the law, Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., can help. We represent restaurant and hospitality workers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and northern Virginia.