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Are state lawmakers willing to consider a tipped employee tier?

Minnesota's wage and hour laws underwent a historic change last year when Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation authorizing substantial and periodic adjustments to the state's minimum wage.

Specifically, the measure, which marked a major victory for labor advocacy groups, saw the minimum wage rise to $8 an hour last August. This amount is slated to go up to $9 an hour this coming August before rising to $9.50 in 2016. By 2018, the minimum wage will then be adjusted on a yearly basis in order to keep up with inflation.

As celebrated as the new minimum wage law has been, it has also been the subject of an ongoing debate as to whether lawmakers should have included what is known as a "tipped employee tier," in its language, meaning an exemption that would allow employers to pay a lower base wage to tipped employees like servers and bartenders.

As it turns out, the inclusion of a tipped employee tier in the state's new wage and hour law only failed by one vote in the House.

It appears as if discussion on the matter won't be going away any time soon given that the Minnesota Restaurant Association is now urging state lawmakers to consider a proposal it has drafted concerning exemptions for tipped workers.

Under the proposal, the minimum wage for tipped employees would be limited to $8 an hour and would stay as such provided that tipped employees earned the equivalent of $12 an hour after tips are factored in for each two-week pay cycle. In the event the tipped employees failed to meet this minimum, they would be paid whatever the full minimum wage was at the time.

According to the association, their proposal would not only avoiding cutting the pay of any worker, but also keep costs lower for restaurant owners and enable them to pay more to those workers who don't earn tips, such as cooks, dishwashers and other people in the kitchen area.

It remains to be seen whether the tipped employee tier will become a reality. However, it appears to have a decent chance of happening given that it failed by only a single vote last year and that Governor Dayton has expressed a willingness to revisit the issue.

Stay tuned for updates updates ...

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you believe that you have been victimized by employee misclassification, unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Minnesota restaurant owners want break on tipped workers," Patrick Condon, Jan. 13, 2015

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