While four years have passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage (July 24, 2009), tipped workers (for example, restaurant servers, hair stylists, manicurists, car washers and casino workers) are looking at 21 years at the same mandated federal minimum.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) “tipped employees” are entitled to a minimum wage of just $2.13 per hour – less than one-third of the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage for non-tipped employees. Thirty-one states, however, have passed higher minimum-wage laws for tipped workers. And seven of these states (AK, CA, MN, MT, NV, OR, and WA) require employers to pay the same state minimum wage to tipped and non-tipped employees. With the exception of Minnesota, all of these states also have set their state minimum wage above the federal level.

Tipped workers are concentrated in industries that have the fewest job protections and the lowest incomes. Steps at the state level provide a glimmer of hope for tipped workers, but tipped workers everywhere would benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage for tipped workers.