Ask The Salty Waitress: How can I report an employer who’s skimming tips?

Illustration for article titled Ask The Salty Waitress: How can I report an employer who’s skimming tips?
Photo: JackF (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Hi Salty, There is a restaurant my friend worked at on Long Island. Servers receive a set $90 gratuity on parties. My friend worked a large party with a $6k tab. He noticed that the manager added an automatic $1,200 tip....but still only gave him the $90 tip after busting his ass for several hours. He was told not to ask so many questions and was fired when noting that the management was stealing from their servers. This extra goes right into the restaurant’s pockets. I highly doubt they report the income.

Any ideas how he should go about reporting their shady business practices and to whom? I sent him some links to local news networks that have segments about such consumer/business affairs. I warned him about stories where businesses sued people for the reviews they’ve left on sites like Yelp, regardless of their truthfulness. What have you heard/done in the past?

Cheers,
Friend of an idiot that works for greater idiots

Dear Friend Of An Idiot,

Wage theft isn’t an issue to take to Yelp, or to the local news team, or even to the smartest advice-dishing waitress on the internet. I feel like I’ve said this before (if it even needs saying), but I’m no lawyer. I’m not going to speak to your friend’s case specifically, but in general, skimmed tips or withheld payment could be a crime. It should be handled by people with legal experience.

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That your friend was fired for asking a question about tips is a pretty big red flag, though. I’d tell him to do a few things, none of which involve bitching on Yelp. First, if there’s a free legal clinic in his area—here’s one that serves Nassau and Suffolk counties—he might give them a call to find out whether his complaint has merits.

Second, wage-theft violations can be reported to the federal Department Of Labor’s Wage And Hour Division. The agency’s website has a list of local offices to call, a toll-free help line, and a guide to the kind of information/details your friend will need before filing a complaint. Complaints are confidential, so an employee’s name will not be released to the business in question. Plus, employers can’t legally fire or retaliate against employees who complains to the WHD. The agency also investigates complaints regardless of a worker’s immigration status.

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Third, because New York State has its own minimum-wage laws, your friend might want to instead report this to New York State’s Department Of Labor. The office even makes it easy to file a complaint with a handy-dandy form. In New York, an employee must first ask for the wages before they can file a complaint, and it sounds like your friend did.

I hope this helps, Friend Of An Idiot. In general, I tell all my fellow industry folks to know the phone number for their area’s low-cost legal clinic and to go there with questions first. I am but an internet advice-dispensing waitress—the specifics of an individual case are a little above my pay grade.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com

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DISCUSSION

ryubot4000
Ryuthrowsstuff

Report it to state and federal labor authorities. As taking tip money is almost always illegal wage garnishment. IIRC its illegal federally and in most states. Its nothing to do with the minimum wage itself. Employers can not touch tip money. And they can not take wages you are fairly due (which includes tips). Its wage theft and it carries hefty fines.

But don’t expect much. I’m still waiting after giving a statement for a tip garnishment and wage theft complaint five years ago. And the employer in question had been cited for the same at least 3 times (which I found out too late). Enforcement on this sort of shit is effectively nil. And I never even heard back about the employer who skipped town with the pay roll.

So yeah. Take it to Facebook. Take it to yelp. Tell all the regulars. Shout it from the roof tops because unless you can afford a lawyer, bad press is the only way these people will see consequences. The five year old complaint will never see restitution. Cause that place shut down when the owners reputation for robbing her employees ruined her business. None of us were ever gonna get the money we were due in the first place. But at least she’s not fucking people over anymore.