Pennsylvania Restaurant Tipping Guide

Written by Jim Belt in Restaurant

Understanding the ins and outs of tipping can enhance your dining experience in Pennsylvania restaurants. This guide covers tipping etiquette at Pennsylvania eateries and explains customary gratuity amounts in the state.

In Pennsylvania, it is customary to tip between 15-20% of the pre-tax bill at restaurants, mirroring the general tipping practices across the United States. For exceptional service, diners may tip above this range.

Tipping Customs

Tippping is customary


  • Pennsylvania adheres to federal and state minimum wage laws for tipped employees.
  • Tip credit and pooling regulations ensure minimum wage for all tipped restaurant staff.
  • Credit card tip processing conforms to Pennsylvania's fair wage standards.

Basics of Tipping in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, tipping practices at restaurants are defined by specific state laws that stipulate how employers must compensate their tipped workers. It's important for you to know the basics, including what qualifies as a tipped employee and what the minimum wage is for these workers.

Definition of Tipped Employee

A tipped employee in Pennsylvania is someone who consistently receives more than $30 per month in tips. These earnings are in addition to their regular wages.

Minimum Cash Wage for Tipped Workers

Pennsylvania law sets the minimum cash wage for tipped workers at $2.83 an hour. This base pay is guaranteed, but the idea is that tips will help your earnings meet or exceed the statewide minimum wage which is $7.25 an hour. If your tips do not push your total earnings to at least the state minimum wage, your employer is required to make up the difference.

When working in Pennsylvania's restaurant industry, understanding the legalities surrounding tips is crucial for both employees and employers. Let's get into the specifics of what you need to know about tip credit and tip pooling, which are governed by state and federal laws.

Tip Credit Explained

Tip credit is a legal provision that allows employers to pay tipped employees a wage lower than the standard minimum wage. However, new regulations stipulate that the sum of your tips plus the reduced hourly wage must at least equal the full state minimum wage. You should be aware that only employees who regularly receive more than $30 per month in tips qualify for the tip credit.

Regulations on Tip Pooling

Tip pooling is when tipped employees combine their tips and redistribute them among a group. In Pennsylvania, the law permits tip pooling, but it's important that employees who are usually not tipped, like kitchen staff, are not included in the pool. Guidelines set by the state ensure that the tip pool is shared only among those who customarily receive tips, such as servers and bartenders.

Department of Labor and Industry Guidelines

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry provides detailed guidelines for tipped employees. This includes information on minimum wage requirements and how your tips should be handled. The state aligns with federal rules, thus enforcing the 80/20 rule, where you must spend at least 80% of your time performing tasks that directly earn tips. If you have doubts or concerns, this department is your go-to resource for clarifications on your rights as a tipped employee.

Employer Obligations and Employee Rights

When you're working in the Pennsylvania restaurant industry, it's crucial to understand the rules around tipping. Your employer has certain obligations to fulfill, while you have rights that protect your income, especially regarding tips and overtime.

Notification Requirements for Employees

As an employee, you should be informed by your employer of any tip credit provisions in effect. This means that your employer must notify you if they are using your tips as a credit towards paying you the minimum wage. Additionally, with the new regulations, the definition of a "tipped employee" has changed; you must now earn more than $135 a month in tips. This is a significant increase from the previous $30 threshold.

Overtime Pay and Tipped Employees

Regarding overtime pay, the law stipulates that if you're a non-exempt employee in Pennsylvania, your employer must pay you 1.5 times your regular rate for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. If you’re on a salary, your regular rate is calculated based on a standard 40-hour workweek. Remember, even as a tipped employee earning below the standard minimum wage, your right to overtime pay still stands under state law.

Handling Tips on Credit Card Payments

When you're working as a server in Pennsylvania, it's important to understand how your tips from credit card payments are processed. Customers often pay with cards, so knowing the ins and outs of these transactions can directly affect your pay.

Credit card tips are generally added to your total income and are subject to the same taxes as your regular pay. When a customer leaves a tip on a card:

Here's a simple breakdown:

Customer Bill Credit Card Tip Processing Fee Tip You Receive
$50.00 $10.00 $0.50 $9.50

Remember, your employer should pay you the tip amounts from credit card transactions no later than the next regular payday. If the credit card company charges the establishment a percentage to process the payment, this may slightly reduce the tip you eventually get, but they cannot hold onto your tips, and you must receive the full amount minus the typical processing fee.

As a tipped employee, it's also wise to track your credit card tips to ensure accuracy in your pay. In case of discrepancies, don't hesitate to discuss them with your employer. Consider keeping a daily record of your tips to help keep track of your earnings and make sure your pay checks out.

Comparison with Other States' Tipping Laws

In the context of the restaurant industry, you'll find that tipping laws can vary significantly from Pennsylvania's practices, particularly when it comes to a 'tip credit' system and the minimum wage rates set for tipped employees.

States Without Tip Credit

In Pennsylvania, if your total earnings including tips don't reach the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, your employer is required to make up the difference. However, several states do not use the tip credit system. For instance, in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, Alaska, and Guam, employers must pay you the full state minimum wage before tips. This means if you're serving tables in San Francisco or Seattle, your base pay is the same as non-tipped workers, and any tips you earn are additional income.

Differences in Minimum Wage Across States

The minimum wage for tipped employees fluctuates across states. In Pennsylvania, the direct hourly wage for tipped workers is $2.83, but in other states, it can be higher. Washington and Oregon, where no tip credit is taken, have set minimum wages for all workers at $13.50 and $12.00 per hour respectively, so your starting hourly wage in these states would be notably more substantial compared to Pennsylvania. Contrast this with the federal minimum tipped wage of $2.13 per hour, and you can truly appreciate the differences in pay scales across state lines.

Published: 20-01-2024

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