It might not be against the law or against your company policy for salaried employees to accept an occasional tip. But the perception of salaried employees receiving tips isn't exactly a favorable one, especially in situations involving public sector employees. If you're a salaried worker, err on the side of caution and refuse tips that you think are inappropriate or gratuities you believe are intended for more than just "thank you" for a job well done.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the rules for tipped employees apply to hourly, nonexempt workers who earn more than $30 each month in tips. The federal law doesn't specifically rule out salaried employees as tipped workers, but the FLSA guidelines apply to hourly workers. The minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13, and when the employee's average tips don't add up to average $7.25 an hour -- the federal minimum hourly wage -- the employer has to make up the difference.
Tipped Workers' Jobs
In many cases, tipped workers are in the food-and-beverage industry, hospitality and tourism industry or in a service occupation, such as limousine and taxi drivers, sky caps and similar jobs. The FLSA refers to employees who "customarily and regularly receive tips" as being subject to the federal guidelines. That means salaried employees might not be considered tipped employees, but that doesn't prevent a salaried worker from accepting a tip.
Customs and Practice
Clients and customers often show how much they appreciate someone's work by tipping them. Rules for tipping don't correspond to whether the employee is hourly or salaried, and the customer may not even care how the employee is paid. Tipping generally is based on etiquette and common courtesy. Therefore, if you're a salaried employee or if you supervise salaried employees who aren't in service occupations, an occasional tip is acceptable. An exception to this is employees in the public sector, who usually cannot receive gifts, tips or gratuities.
Public Sector Employees
If you're a salaried or hourly public sector employee, it might be against the federal, state or municipal government's ethics policies for you to receive gratuities. For example, if you're a legislator, contract administrator or attorney, you have the power to influence decisions concerning laws and business opportunities, which means you shouldn't accept gratuities or gifts from people trying to influence you. Some state laws cap maximum gratuities that public employees can accept, and other government agencies simply say, "No tips or gratuities allowed."
- Nolo: Tips, Tip Pooling, and Tip Credits: What Service Employees Need to Know
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet No. 15: Tipped Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
- State of Vermont, Department of Labor: Information on Tipped and Service Employees
- Trip Advisor: United States: Tipping & Etiquette
- State of Washington, Washington State Executive Ethics Board: Ethics in Public Service Act
- National Conference of State Legislatures: Ethics: Legislator Gift Restrictions Overview
- Cornell University Law School: 18 USC § 201 - Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.