Pay raise for servers? New bill would raise Nebraska's "tipping wage"
A new bill in the legislature would increase the wage food servers make. It has bipartisan support, but not all restaurant owners support it.
For those who work in the restaurant industry, tips can be a large, or small, source of income.
Servers in Nebraska currently earn $2.13 as their base salary.
If approved, the bill, introduced by Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha, would take effect January 1, 2020 and increase wages to $3.60 per hour before bumping them once again to $4.50 per hour on January 1, 2021.
"It will make it 50 per cent of the state minimum wage. Since 1991 we've raised our state minimum wage seven times, but the wage for tipped workers has stayed the same at $2.13 an hour," Hunt said. "Any one who's ever worked in a restaurant knows that giving good service is not a guarantee that you're going to get a tip."
The bill has bipartisan support, and Senator Hunt also says that giving good service isn't a guarantee that one will get a tip.
However, restaurant owners like Nader Farahbod of Lincoln's "Billy's" says he thinks there's some misunderstanding over servers' wages.
"It's probably not as necessary as some might think to make this change because all it's going to do is force people like me to increase the cost of the menu items to meet the requirement to pay my staff the extra money," Farahbod said.
Raising menu prices, Farahbod said, means the wait staff will likely see larger tips.
"The tip is directly a percentage of the total spending of the customer, so therefore the servers also get an increase in their wages by a way of getting more tips."
That would add to the upwards of $20 per hour servers can make if their restaurant is particularly busy. Farahbod said that he has never had an employee come to him and say they didn’t make enough money during the week.
Under current law, restaurants must match the state minimum wage. That means if, at the end of a shift, a server did not make enough money through tips that it equals the state minimum wage of $9.25 per hour, the restaurant must compensate them accordingly.
For Senator Hunt, the legislation is purely meant to help people and isn't intended as a 'punishment' for restaurant or small business owners.
" We can't keep paying people the same we paid them 28 years ago…it's meant to bring the working wage up to our standards up to 2019 and not leave it back in 1991," Hunt said.
This is not the first time such legislation has presented to the unicameral, but it didn't have enough support to pass in past years. Senator Hunt believes there's enough support to sign the bill into law this time.