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Protecting unionized restaurant workers from tip-pooling abuses

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Hotel And Restaurant Unions |

Restaurant and hospitality unions help to protect workers in one of the most abusive New York industries. Hospitality employees and those working at restaurants or bars often face untenable work circumstances. Employers may violate employee protection laws or try to deny workers the wages and gratuities they deserve.

Unions protect workers from employment law violations and wage infractions. Workers not receiving appropriate compensation for the services that they provide may seek support from their local union representative to address their concerns. The union can negotiate with the employer or even take legal action against the company.

Sometimes, workers in hospitality-related professions have concerns about tip pooling practices at the restaurant where they work. Can employment unions protect workers against tip-pooling violations?

Some tip-pooling is legal in New York

Workers may sometimes misunderstand their rights or potentially remember laws from another state while working in New York. Workers whose complaint involves customer gratuities may allege that a company’s tip-pooling practices are illegal when they actually comply with New York state law.

It is lawful for a business to require that workers pool their tips with one another and share an equal portion of the combined tips at the end of a shift. Companies can also require that workers who earn gratuities share the tips they receive with other employees including hosts, dishwashers and bussers. However, anyone who earns a salary instead of hourly wages or has an ownership interest in the company should not participate in tip pooling. It is a violation to require that someone share their tips with a manager receiving salary wages or with the owner of the business. Additionally, it is illegal for companies to charge workers a fee to receive the tips left when a customer pays with a credit card or debit card.

Provided that there were actionable tip-related wage violations, unions can advocate for affected employees by communicating with business owners or management. Other times, unions may need to prepare to take legal action on behalf of members denied the tips that they earned through their hard work. Understanding the New York approach to tip-pooling may help union representatives recognize when a business may have violated the rights of certain union members.