QUESTION:    It seems like I have been waitering for half my life.  Finally I am getting around to asking a few questions.  Is it true that waiters have a lower minimum wage than everyone else?  In addition, my employer often schedules me for a four hour shift and then sends me home after an hour if it is not busy.  Shouldn’t he have to pay me for the four hours I was scheduled for?
ANSWER:     Waiters earnings tips are entitled to a lower minimum wage of $5.95 per hour.  The Employment Standards Act states that if you are regularly scheduled to work more than three hours in a shift and are sent home after working less than three hours, you are entitled to be paid for three hours at your wage or three hours at the minimum wage, whichever is greater. 
For instance, if you are scheduled for a four hour shift and sent home after one and earn $7 per hour, you are entitled to be paid $21 even if you were sent home early.
You do not get compensated for the fourth hour for which you are scheduled but you are guaranteed the minimum of three hours pay.  If you receive minimum wage, you would get paid three hours at the minimum wage.  
The irony, of course, is that for most people in the food service industry who waiter, their hourly wage is a very small part of their total income.  It is not much solace to be paid minimum wage for an extra two hours.  What you have really lost is probably at least $30 in tips as a result of not being able to work a shift with a decent number of tables to serve.  Maybe you should be looking for a new place to work.
As published in the Hamilton Spectator, October 21, 2002
Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809