Is it legal for a restaurant to pay me below minimum wage?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is it legal for a restaurant to pay me below minimum wage?

I work at a restaurant as a barista – not a bartender. We are also in charge of to-go orders and merchandise checkout. We prepare all drinks for the entire restaurant such as coffee drinks, smoothies and have limited beer and wine bottles only, nothing on tap. how is it possible that we are all paid below minimum wage? I have worked as a barista in corporate and smaller coffee shops where we served hot food and prepared those as well and they paid the minimum wage requirement. What’s

different about this one?

Asked on August 22, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Do you receive tips? If so, they can pay you less than minimum because the law lets tipped employees receive sub-minimum wage so long as they receive sufficient tips each week to push their weekly earnings to at least equal that they would have received at minimum: i.e. right now minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you work 40 hours per week at minimum, your gross pay (pre-tax) is $290/week. As long as, tax and tips, you earn at least $290, that is legal.
BUT if you are not being tipped at all, or your tips are insufficient to reach the level you would have received at minimum for the hours you worked, that is illegal; in that case, contact the department of labor to file a wage and hour complaint.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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