The Boston Globe recently ran a story about Cultivar – a popular Downtown Boston restaurant – and how it failed to pay wages and tips to its servers and bartenders, including by issuing paychecks that bounced and by failing to pay them their tips.
Unfortunately, this is something we see too often in the restaurant industry.
Massachusetts has some of the strongest wage and tips laws in the country. Under those laws, if you are a server, bartender, or other type of waitstaff employee, it is illegal for your employer to keep any of your tips for any reason.
It is also illegal for your employer to make you share or pool tips with people who (a) do not serve prepared food or beverages directly to guests or clear guests’ tables or (b) possess any level of managerial responsibility.
That means your employer can’t make you tip out people like kitchen staff, cleaning personnel, shift supervisors, bar managers, or other types of employees who either do not directly serve customers, clear tables, or who have managerial responsibility.
The penalties that employers face for violating these laws can be severe. For example, if your employer requires you to pool tips with ineligible employees like a manager or a kitchen employee, then your employer can be required to pay you back not only the amount of tips that you shared, but also the difference between the so-called “tipped” or “service” minimum wage (currently $4.35 per hour in Massachusetts) and the full minimum wage (currently $12.00 per hour in Massachusetts).
On top of that, Massachusetts law provides for recovery of attorneys’ fees, interest, and something called “treble damages.” Treble is just a fancy legal term for “triple.” So what that means is that an employer who owes you $1,000 in wages or tips can wind up owing you $3,000, plus the attorneys’ fees incurred in pursuing your case, plus interest on your owed wages and tips.
If you work in a restaurant or other tipped occupation and have questions about your wage rights, get in touch with us. We have extensive experience pursuing these types of claims and are always happy to talk.