Supporting Tipped Workers

Letter to Secretary R. Alexander Acosta regarding Tipped Wages

January 25, 2018

I have deep concerns about the Department of Labor’s proposed rule that would transfer control of tips out of the hands of workers and into the hands of employers.

The Department of Labor has argued that the current rules governing tips are unfair to so-called “back of the house” workers, those workers like cooks, dishwashers, and others who generally do not interact with customers and therefore do not have the opportunity to receive tips. While bringing more equity to the relationship between front of the house and back of the house workers in an admirable goal, the proposed rule is not the way to do it.

Under this rule, while employers could pool and redistribute tips, there is nothing to stop employers from paying their staff up to the minimum wage threshold and then pocketing the tips for themselves. The Department of Labor could have easily drafted the rule to contain such prohibitions. The decision not to gives the strong appearance that the rule was not crafted to benefit back of the house workers but instead their employers and many analyses of the potential impacts of this rule have found that it is employers who will profit should it go into effect. Furthermore, there are plenty of tipped staff workers that are not in restaurant settings that could risk losing their tips all together.

When a customer tips a worker, it is their assumption that the tip is going to the person providing them service, and not towards making companies and owners richer. It is the responsibility of the Department of Labor to protect workers, and this rule instead leaves them incredibly vulnerable by legalizing the theft of their wages. I strongly urge the Department of Labor to withdraw the proposed rule immediately.