New Jersey's minimum wage for tipped employees has remained unchanged for more than two decades, at $2.13 an hour. A group of Garden State lawmakers wants to give these workers a raise, but they're meeting with resistance.

(Toniann Antonelli, Townsquare Media NJ)
(Toniann Antonelli, Townsquare Media NJ)

Under the legislation co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), the hourly minimum wage for tipped employees would be increased to $3.37 on Jan. 1, 2015 and would go to $5.93 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2016.

"We're looking for them to earn affordable wages at this point," Sumter said. "Our wage is still $2.13 an hour. New York, Connecticut and Delaware pay over that. Their tip minimum is over $5 an hour, so New Jersey is really behind the curve."

Claiming that the tipped workers only make $2.13 an hour in wages is not entirely accurate when you dig a little deeper, said New Jersey Restaurant Association president Marilou Halvorsen.

"Every employee who works a shift is guaranteed the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour," Halvorsen said. "If a tipped employee does not meet the $8.25 (averaged out over the length of the shift), the employer is responsible for making up that difference."

According to Halvorsen, there is also reason to question the necessity of a raise for tipped workers.

"The average tipped employee in the state of New Jersey is averaging between $16 and $17 an hour right now," Halvorsen said.

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