Restaurant servers are the face of the establishment for patrons, but the dining experience is also greatly influenced by cooks, hosts, dishwashers and many other support staff.
Yet without tip-sharing, servers are the only employees who reap the gains when customers respond to a good experience with a generous gratuity.
The U.S. Labor Department is moving to ease restrictions imposed by the Obama administration that sharply curtailed tip-sharing. It’s a smart move that would restore control to owners, rather than bureaucrats.
The rule proposed Monday would allow restaurants that pay at least minimum wage to require employees to share tips. The change would also apply to casinos, hotels and other businesses where staff regularly receive tips, but its impact would be greatest in the restaurant industry. The Monday posting launched a 30-day comment period.
Longstanding federal regulations ban tip-sharing in states where tipped workers can be paid less than minimum wage. That makes sense, given the tips are seen as making up that pay difference, and would be unaffected by Monday’s suggested rule change.
But in 2011, the Obama administration widened the prohibition to cover all tipped employees, no matter what they are paid. That move included Oregon in the ban, because Oregon requires minimum wage even for those who get tips.
The restaurant industry supports the new proposal to reverse the Obama-era expansion, while some worker advocates worry the companies will use tip-sharing to avoid paying support staff more.
Importantly, the new rule would allow — not force — owners to use tip-sharing. It would put the decision back where it belongs, in the hands of the business owner.