Washington, DC’s New Initiative 82 on Wages for Tipped Workers

Dec 6, 2022 | Wage & Hour

This blog was co-authored by Serena Bernal

On Nov. 8, 2022, Washington, DC voters overwhelmingly supported Initiative 82, which will gradually increase the mandatory base wage that tipped workers receive until 2027, when it will match the base wage of non-tipped workers.

Purpose of the Law

Given that tipped workers in Washington, DC experience poverty at two or three times the rate of non-tipped workers, any difference in payment represents serious consequences for affected individuals and their families’ livelihood. In eliminating the tipped minimum wage, the city’s voters have voiced their support for tipped workers—including restaurant servers, bartenders, and hairstylists—maintaining a base wage that matches the city’s minimum wage.

The law is designed to uplift the district’s tipped workforce, which is disproportionately comprised of people of color and women. According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, about 70% of the district’s tipped workers are people of color. Within the United States overall, two-thirds of the U.S. tipped workforce are women. And, according to figures from the Economic Policy Institute, Black tipped workers are paid 23% less per hour than white tipped workers, and female tipped workers are paid 8% less per hour than male tipped workers.

As a tipped worker’s paycheck can highly vary from week to week, Initiative 82 promises a more stable income floor for these employees.

Is the Law Automatically Effective?

Initiative 82 was approved with nearly 74% of voters supporting the measure. However, the initiative must first go through a 30-day period of Congressional review. Additionally, while the DC Council could potentially overturn the measure, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who led the repeal effort of a nearly identical initiative in 2018, has reportedly said that he does not believe that any council members will introduce legislation to overturn the outcome of Initiative 82.

How Will the Law Be Implemented?

Under the current system of credit as of November of 2022, the base minimum hourly wage for tipped employees is $5.35. If an employee’s hourly tip earnings added to the base minimum do not constitute the district’s full minimum wage ($16.10/hour), the employer must pay the difference to the employee. If Initiative 82 goes into effect, the base minimum hourly wage to which a tipped employee is entitled will increase each year until 2027, when their base wage will equal full minimum wage.

Date Tipped Minimum Wage Per Hour
July 1, 2023 $8.00
July 1, 2024 $10.00
July 1, 2025 $12.00
July 1, 2026 $14.00
July 1, 2027 Hourly rate equal to the prevailing standard minimum wage

While Initiative 82 offers a remedy for tipped workers to receive equitable pay, affected individuals must ensure their employers comply with the new law once it is implemented.

If you believe you have been denied wages in the District of Columbia or elsewhere, contact an experienced employment attorney at Sanford Heisler Sharp which has offices in Washington, DC, as well as New York City, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Baltimore, Nashville, and San Diego.