Barista and Manager pointing at a laptop; Credit Card with Receipt; Business man putting money in his pockets

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‘I feel devalued and I definitely feel like our part timers have been devalued’: Barista says that they’re not being paid their credit card tips

'absolutely discuss this with an attorney'


Jack Alban


Posted on Aug 18, 2023

The Eighth Commandment: You shall not steal. But one Reddit user and barista thinks that their coffee shop employer is violating the age-old rule by allegedly not paying out credit card tips.     

“We don’t get paid our credit card tips,” wrote Reddit user LaLaLatte (latte_jk) in a post, which has since been deleted, to the r/antiwork sub. In the post, they described the tip theft and context in which she claims it occurred.

We don’t get paid our credit card tips.
by u/latte_jk in antiwork

Essentially, LaLa says they left their remote management job to work as a barista at their mother-in-law’s coffee shop. They entered the position believing it would come along with managerial duties and a salary to match. However, their current salary is $40,000 per year, which doesn’t fully match their previous salary. On top of this, LaLa feels they have no managerial duties, such as staffing, ordering, or pay roll.

To make matters worse, LaLa and other part-time workers initially only received cash tips. After the employees raised issue with this system, the mother-in-law allegedly explained that card tips would be used to help pay their wage and avoid double taxation. LaLa felt their mother-in-law was dismissive of their concerns regarding the matter. LaLa believes not paying out tips is legally wage theft.

As many of us know all too well, relationships with in-laws can be difficult. Throw money into the mix, and you’re looking at a delicate tightrope to walk. LaLa concluded their post with this thought, “I feel devalued and I definitely feel like our part timers have been devalued… I just need perspective. Maybe from small business owners and others who have been in similar situations.”   

LaLa is definitely not alone: Wage theft costs workers $50 billion annually. Tactics include paying less than minimum wage, withholding tips, and pressuring staff to complete off-the-clock work. And many times, employers get away with stealing money from their employees because folks want to keep their jobs and don’t want to cause a stink. 

In general, U.S. employees who earn a significant portion of their incomes through tips are considered “tipped” employees and therefore earn $2.13 per hour vs. the $7.25 standard for non-tipped workers. Tips are subject to federal income tax just like any other wage. Employers may not withhold tips except under very specific circumstances.

Employers may require employees to contribute to a tip pool, which refers to an arrangement where employees share a percentage of their tips. However, the employer must comply with strict requirements and tip pools cannot include managers or supervisors. So what are LaLa’s options going forward? Some redditors in the comments had ideas.

One user suggestion filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor: “Fill this out, don’t tell anyone you did though. If you get fired for talking about the tips, fill out a second one for retaliation.” In LaLa’s case, retaliation may be a very real issue given that they’ve raised the concern directly with their mother-in-law already.

Another user offered a sobering outlook on this approach, “The number of people that think that you can fill out a form and things will just get fixed because ‘this is America’ is saddening and sickening at this point…In my state [Department of Labor] complaints are on a 3 year waiting list.”  

OK, so what about a lawyer? One user suggested, “LOL your MIL is about to hit the ‘find out’ part. Go get yourself an attorney right now that is so hella illegal.” 

Anther user suggested simply finding a new job. “If I’m being fully honest with you, you need to find a new job. Your MIL is breaking a bunch of laws, and presumably you want to remain somewhat on her good side for the sake of your spouse.”

Workers fed up with various forms of alleged wage theft have taken to social media to air their grievances. One TikToker went viral after complaining about workplaces that encourage employees to arrive—but not clock in—early. Another user made waves by calling out companies that refuse to pay overtime. And one redditor cried foul after noticing changes to the clock out times on their time card.

The Daily Dot has reached out to LaLa via Reddit DM for comment.

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*First Published: Aug 18, 2023, 12:50 pm CDT