A reader of the California Employment Law Report asks if it is possible to have employees enter into an agreement that would allow the employer to count a portion of the employees’ tips towards the minimum wage requirement. “Tip credit” is recognized by many states and it allows employers to count a portion of the employees’ tips towards a portion of the minimum wage requirement. Whether this is allowed and to what extent employers can offset their duty to pay minimum wage varies from state to state. Unfortunately, California does not allow tip credit. But the question raises another issue of whether it is possible to have employees agree to a tip credit even though the Labor Code does not provide for any credit.

As I’ve written about before, there are a few rights under the California Labor Code that employees cannot waive for public policy reasons. Labor Code Section 1194 provides a private right of action to enforce violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, and the statute voids any agreement between an employer and employee to work for less than minimum wage or not to receive overtime. It provides:

Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.

Therefore, any agreement entered into with employees permitting a tip credit would not be permitted under California law, as the employee would be waiving his or her right to minimum wage, which is not allowed under Labor Code Section 1194.