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Can you use a tip pool?

You start a new bar, a business you’ve always dreamed of starting. You thought it was a fantasy for years, but then you had the opportunity and decided to launch. In the process, you hired waitstaff and bartenders, among others.

You know that this is a business in which employees often gather tips. You also know that those tips can be used to ensure that they make at least minimum wage on their shifts. What you’re wondering is if you can keep things simple by putting all the tips into a pool and then splitting them up evenly.

You can, under Georgia law, if that’s what you’d like to do and if employees are informed about the process in advance. For instance, maybe your goal is to make it so that any server can go to any table and bring another round of drinks. That’s more efficient and will help you sell more drinks.

However, the division of the tips has to be fair. For instance, Georgia law also states that those tips never belong to you as the employer. You can’t create a tip pool in order to take all or a portion of the tips for yourself. The tips were given to the employees and have to stay with the employees. You can credit them against the wages, but you cannot take them as income for the bar — the way you would with the actual payment for the drinks.

It is incredibly important to make sure you understand all of the ways that state laws govern your relationship with your new employees and to know exactly what legal steps to take if a dispute arises.