What is the South Carolina Tipped Minimum Wage?

Author: Jason Coles

Updated On:

Paying substantial tips is not commonplace in many countries around the world because employees are paid differently by their employer. However, it is very common practice in the United States, with a huge number of workers making the majority of their income through tips. This is without a doubt the case in South Carolina, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Hospitality workers, including restaurant, bar, cafe, hotel, cruise, bellhop, and other service provider employees usually are aware that they will be paid a small hourly wage, which is heavily supplemented through the addition of tips that are paid by customers.

The majority of service-industry workers who are paid the South Carolina tipped minimum wage will base most of their take-home pay on tips and will rely on them to cover their cost of living and lifestyle. Currently, the minimum wage in South Carolina is $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees. The South Carolina tipped minimum wage is $2.13 per hour, and the South Carolina tip credit is $5.12 per hour.

What makes a South Carolina Tipped Employee?

When you consider what makes a tipped employee, a tipped employee is somebody who earns their wages through tips rather than a fixed salary or higher hourly rate. Federal law has established the rules behind what is considered to be a tipped employee vs. a non-tipped employee.

So, in South Carolina, if an employee receives $30 or more per month in tips, they are considered to be a tipped employee by federal and state standards. These employees often include workers such as bartenders, restaurant servers, hotel workers, valet car parking attendants, and any other service-related industry where tips are fairly customary. The South Carolina laws that surround the definition of a tipped employee follow these federal guidelines.

Tipped Employees & the Tipped Minimum Wage in South Carolina

To abide by the South Carolina minimum wage laws, employers must ensure that their employees are being paid at the very least the state minimum wage rate when you include tips, which is also known as the South Carolina tipped minimum wage for employees.

If these employees do not make the minimum wage pay rate in tips, then it is the responsibility of the employer to make up the difference, ensuring that their employees are being paid at least the full minimum wage rate for South Carolina.

There are several different employment law factors that have a direct impact on how South Carolina employers handle their tipped employees. Knowledge of the minimum wage in South Carolina, the federal laws controlling wages, and how pay and wages work for tipped employees is pivotal if you are already running or considering starting a service-related business with tipped employees.

Tipped minimum wage in South Carolina

Currently, the minimum wage in South Carolina is $7.25 per hour (federal minimum wage) for non-tipped employees. The South Carolina tipped minimum wage is $2.13 per hour. The state currently follows the federal minimum wage laws meaning that there is no specific and higher minimum wage set by the state itself, employees and employers must follow federal guidelines related to the minimum wage.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Tipped Employees

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, also known as the FLSA, is a federal law from the U.S. Department of Labor. This law establishes a national minimum wage, defines classifications for employees, and covers other essential standards and requirements for employers.

Federal law requires that South Carolina employers make tipped employees aware of the cash wage paid. They must also let them know about the tip credit, and explain any tip pooling systems at the workplace. Currently, the national direct hourly wage rate is only $2.13 per hour.

Tipped Credits and the Minimum Cash Wage in South Carolina

Since the rules for tipped employees are different than non-tipped employees, there are other ways that South Carolina employers can calculate the minimum amount earned by a tipped employee. One of these ways, and perhaps the most significant method is through tip credits.

So, what is the minimum wage for a bartender in South Carolina? The South Carolina tip credit is currently $5.12 per hour – this means that employers can claim a $5.12 hourly credit against the tipped employee’s minimum wage. This credit effectively turns the $7.25 minimum wage into a $2.13 per hour minimum wage that employers must pay to tipped employees no matter how much they earn.

Let’s assume a bartender (or other tipped employee) in South Carolina earns less than $5.12 per hour (on average) as the tipped portion of their wage across a working week. In that case, the employer must pay the difference between the minimum cash wage ($2.13 per hour) what they made in tips per hour in a working week, and the total of $7.25 per hour. This is tipped credit against the minimum wage and it can be up to 71% or $5.12.

A minimum cash wage ensures that South Carolina tipped employees earn a reasonably consistent wage even if a slow workweek or other downturn occurs where they do not receive sufficient tips. This regular minimum wage rate ensures that servers and others in tipped roles in South Carolina that do not make enough with tips can still earn a minimum weekly wage when working full-time of $290 ($7.25 x40 hours per week).

Alternatively, some tipped employees in South Carolina will work more than 40 hours per week, especially if they are covering shifts for other employees, and may qualify for overtime pay. The table below displays the South Carolina minimum wage rates over the past few years.

StateTipped WageTip CreditYear
South Carolina tipped minimum wage 2022$2.13$5.122022
South Carolina tipped minimum wage 2021$2.13$5.122021
South Carolina tipped minimum wage 2020$2.13$5.122020
South Carolina tipped minimum wage 2019$2.13$5.122019

How Could This Affect You as a Business Owner?

If you are planning to buy or start a new business in South Carolina due to the opportunities the state has to offer, or just simply considering moving to and finding a job in South Carolina, you will need to be aware of the details surrounding the tipped minimum wage in the Palmetto State.

While you may want to speak with an employment attorney or accounting firm for legal and tax advice about your business, understanding the minimum wage laws for tipped employees can, and will certainly aid you in making an informed decision whether or not to start a business in South Carolina that has tipped employees.

Most U.S. states and territories require that tipped employees make either the full state minimum wage or make a minimum cash wage higher than the FLSA’s requirements. Regardless of where you locate your business in the U.S., you will most likely need to have a pay rate for tipped employees higher than the federal tipped employee rate.

If you have a claim related to employment, you can find out more information on the South Carolina Labor Licensing Regulation website.

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Jason Coles

Jason Coles is the Founder of Foreign USA and its Chief Content Writer and Editor. Recognized as a prolific business plan writer by many prominent immigration attorneys in the U.S., Jason has written over 1,200 business plans over the past 16+ years for start-ups looking to establish and expand their footprint in the United States.