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Indiana lawmaker wants to raise minimum wage for workers who get tips

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Two dollars and 13 cents per hour. 

That's the amount restaurant servers and other employees who get tips earn as a minimum wage, excluding tips, in Indiana, the U.S. Department of Labor says.

One state lawmaker wants to change that. Indiana is one of the few Midwest states that pays tipped employees only what is required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Food with heart is what 23-year-old Lizzie Bilbrey serves every day to earn her tips. "I've been a server for 4-1/2 years," she said. 

She loves working at 3 Sisters Café at  6223 Guilford Ave. in Indianapolis' Broad Ripple business district.

"I rely heavily on my tips. If I don't get tipped, then I don't get paid," Bilbrey said. "That's something that's really big because the hourly (wage) doesn't really count as money."

She earns $2.75 per hour, minus the tips.

"Sometimes there will be a 25 percent tip, and that's awesome. Around the holidays, people are more giving," Bilbrey said. "But normally, it's 18 (percent) or lower." 

State Rep. Karlee Macer, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, "I believe we have 13 other states across the nation that are really looking at increasing that tipped wage."

Macer wants Indiana to be on that list, which is why she's working on a bill to make it happen, but she first wants to discuss any increase to the minimum wage for tipped employees. 

"I think that's a conversation we just need to have. It needs to be a gradual increase. This isn't just about a minimum-wage conversation," Macer said. "It is a good, common-sense conversation of how we can improve the livable wages for people in the industry."

The server at 3 Sisters said, "I'm so for it. I think that we need it." 

Luke Basile, who manages a different restaurant, agreed but said he also believes it would not be easy for business owners.

"I think they'd certainly have to up prices. I don't know if that would discourage people from tipping as much," Basile said.

Alex Munroe, the owner of 3 Sisters, said about the pay for tipped employees, "Finding a nice balance has always been a problem."

An increase in the minimum wage for tipped employees will "be difficult for business owners, but I think ultimately it's for the greater good," Munroe said.


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