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The Tipping Point: An Employee's Right to Gratuities

Many workers across Ontario benefit from tips and other gratuities. Depending on their circumstances, they may rely significantly on tips to help earn a comfortable living. So what happens if as an employee, you aren't getting the tips that you've earned?

With Ontario's Protecting Employees' Tips Act, workers are protecting against unfair withholding, unlawful returning, and other illegal behavior related to gratuity earnings.

The Province's Commitment to Protecting Employees

According to the Employee Standards Act, a gratuity or tip is defined as "voluntary payment left by a customer for an employee or group of employees." It can also encompass a voluntary payment made by a customer to an employer or company with the reasonable expectation that it would be paid or shared to workers.

In instances where there is a tip pool, gratuities are collected and redistributed among employees. Tips outs refer to payments from one employee to another, as per an employer's policy.

Unfortunately, stories of dishonest employers or companies are not uncommon and employees are often left uncertain as to how to protect themselves. In some instances, an employer requires a worker to pay out of pocket for damages incurred during their shift. In other cases, tips are withheld to compensate for losses. Under the act, employers no longer have the right to withhold, make deductions from, or have employees return any portion of their tips to pay for things such as:

  • Theft or non-payment by a customer
  • Damaged or broken supplies
  • Spilled food and drink

How To Protect Yourself

If you work in an environment where gratuities are common, it is important to be proactive. As an employee, it is your responsibility to track the tips that you receive and to note any instances where tips are deducted or withheld. If you are in a situation where you feel as if though your employer is unfairly or illegally handling gratuities, it is important to speak to an employment lawyer to ensure that your best interests are protected.

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