A proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Labor would allow restaurant owners to get their hands on some tips earned by waiters and waitresses and distribute them to other non-tipped workers in the building, such as cooks and dish washers.

But the proposal is not expected to impact gratuities earned by servers in New Jersey's full-service restaurants.

Aimed at decreasing "the wage disparities between tipped and non-tipped workers," the proposal allows employers to take control of a server's tips that go beyond their minimum wage rate and distribute them to workers who aren't generally seen by diners.

However, the proposal only applies to states in which employers pay their tipped workers the full minimum wage. New Jersey does not fall in that category.

In the Garden State, servers generally earn $2.13 per hour — way below the state minimum wage of $8.60 — and depend on tips for their actual take-home pay because the hourly wage is essentially eliminated by taxes and other deductions.

If a server in New Jersey happens to have a slow day and fails to reach the minimum wage rate when tips are included, it's on the employer to cover the difference — also known as taking a tip credit.

According to Angelo Amador, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association, only six states prohibit employers from taking a tip credit. Their wait staff is paid an hourly rate that reflects the state's minimum wage.

But even if New Jersey were among the minority of states that pay the full minimum wage, state law would still prohibit non-tipped workers from getting a piece of the servers' pie.

"Our state laws are very specific on who can participate in the tip share," Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant & Hospitality Association, told New Jersey 101.5. "It's only those people who have a direct connection with the table — your server, your busser, your bartender. It's not your hostess, it's not management, it's not supervisors, it's not the back of the house."

The average tipped employee in the industry makes between $16 and $17 per hour in New Jersey, Halvorsen said.

Public comment on the proposed rule ends Feb. 5.

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