Bartending salaries aren't as cut and dry as most people think. Although there is a federal guideline for a bartending salary, every state has its own set of laws passed to cover minimum wage and tipped minimum wage for all employees and employers. States tend to govern themselves accordingly when it comes to the minimum wage law. The federal government has no qualms with this as long as they follow the minimum guidelines set by the FLSA.

The minimum guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) require payment of at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour as of July 24, 2009) to covered, nonexempt employees. All tipped employees (defined as those benefitting from more than $30 a month in tips) are required to be paid at least $2.13 per hour. In some situations, a bartender's salary may not meet or exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25. In that case, the employer must compensate the bartender or tipped employee to make up the difference.

Bartending salaries may also be subject to state laws as mentioned earlier. If the bartender salary is subject to both the federal and state law, the bartending salary should follow the guideline that provides the greatest benefit to the employee. State laws are complex in some cases and hard to understand at first glance. Most states have a tipped minimum wage in place with the "tipped" being defined under the same guideline. The difference in most states is found in the tip credit provided to the bartending salary. A tip credit is a credit from the state that sets the guideline for how low a bartender salary may be. Let's take Florida as an example. The minimum wage is $7.25/hour and they offer a tip credit of $3.02, therefore bringing the bartender salary/tipped employee hourly wage down to $4.23 per hour.

For a more comprehensive list of each state's guidelines on bartending salaries, you should visit the U.S. Department of Labor wage and hour division. It's located at These lists provide the definition of a tipped employee for all states and territories for the United States and provide the guidelines for the bartending salary, as defined by the state in which you may reside.