Lowcountry restaurants are accused of paying servers and bartenders less than they are owed, or skimming tips that belong to the employee.

Employment Lawyer Marybeth Mullaney says, “You are leaving a tip to that employee in appreciation for the service that they provided to you and it is not a gift to the owner.”

Because servers and bartenders receive tips, legally they only need to make $2.13 per hour. However, attorneys say many Lowcountry restaurants are stealing money that belongs to the employee. Lawyers say this is a common problem. News 2 spoke to the three biggest employment law-focused firms in the area, and those firms have nine local restaurants in their current open lawsuits. These include: Hymans Seafood, Kickin’ Chicken, Wasabi, Miyabi, Charleston Bagel, Buffalo Wild Wings, Mills House, Zen Asian Fusion and Wild Dunes Resort.

There are three big issues that come up in these cases, one is tip skimming.

Mullaney says, “What is illegal is when employers take a portion of the employee’s tips.”

Another issue is paying servers $2.13 per hour, then requiring them to do jobs which don’t allow them to earn tips.

Mullaney says, “Serving tables you can also make $2.13 an hour if you’re rolling silverware or filling up ketchup bottles or doing anything that’s incidental to waiting on customers. However, if you’re performing work such as cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors, washing the dishes, if you are doing those types of jobs you should be paid $7.25 per hour for the time spent performing those duties.”

And tipped employees can not be asked to pick up the tab when a table walks out, when dishes break, or when an order is wrong.

Mullaney says, “The employer is not allowed to dock their pay for breakage because then they wouldn’t even be paying them the minimum wage under those circumstances.”

Attorneys say this happens more often than most people know. Many employees choose not to report wage theft because they are afraid to lose their job. If you think you have grounds for a lawsuit employment attorneys suggest you stop by, consultations are usually free.