You can’t force tip-pooling on waitstaff

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Here’s a reminder that Minnesota law prohibits employers from forcing waiters in traditional restaurant environments to share their tips with bartenders and other support staff. It doesn’t matter what you call those who play a supporting role, either.

Recent case: Jamal worked as a waiter at Pinstripes, an Edina restaurant that features bowling lanes and bocce courts. The restaurant required Jamal and other servers to pool their gratuities and pay out a small percentage at the end of each shift to bartenders and what management called “assistant servers.”

Assistant servers performed the type of tasks ordinarily performed by bus personnel—that is, filling water glasses, removing dirty dishes, wiping down tables and other routine tasks not directly involving taking orders or serving food.

Jamal sued, alleging that Min­­ne­­sota law prohibited employers from forcing waitstaff to share gratuities.

The law says, “any gratuity re­­ceived by an employee or deposited in or about a place of business for personal services rendered by an employee is the sole property of the employee. No employer may require an employee to contribute or share a gratuity received by the employee with the employer or other em­­ployees or to contribute any or all of the gratuity to a fund or pool operated for the benefit of the employer or employees ….”

Pinstripes argued that the situation was more akin to a tip jar left for baristas at a Starbucks and shared at the end of each shift by all behind-the-counter employees who helped prepare customers’ orders. They pointed to a recent case that authorizes just this type of tip-pooling.

The court said Jamal’s case could go forward, noting that Pin­­stripes is not Starbucks and that job titles don’t define working relationships. (Huff v. Pin­­stripes, No. 11-CV-3681, DC MN, 2013)

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