The House on Thursday reportedly approved a $1.3 trillion budget plan that included a provision designed to prevent employers from pocketing workers’ tips.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., negotiated a deal to include a rider in the bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers, managers or supervisors from taking gratuities earned by workers, regardless of whether an employer takes a tip credit.
Language in the bill would give workers the right to sue to recover any stolen tips with an additional amount in damages, and gives the Secretary of Labor the ability to impose civil penalties on employers who violate the law.
The move is a response to a proposed rule revision by the Department of Labor last year that would have allowed back-of-the-house workers to share in tip pools. The department was later accused of burying an analysis that would have shown the new rule could potentially allow employers to pocket tips for themselves.
The worker advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, or ROC United, hailed the addition of tip protections in the omnibus bill as a victory for workers.
“The National Restaurant Association wanted to steal workers’ tips, but the workers said no — and they won. The fact that hundreds of thousands of workers stood up and said no to employers taking their tips, and that Congressional leadership listened and acted, is a testament to the power of workers standing up together,” said Saru Jayaraman, ROC United’s co-founder and president, in a statement.
The NRA had expressed support for the provision that would allow back-of-the-house workers to share in tip pools. This tip sharing had not been permitted under the Obama Administration.
For the NRA, the recent addition of the penalties goes too far because, the group says, some violations are unintentional.
“As the voice for restaurants in every local community, we want to ensure that servers, bussers, dishwashers, cooks and others who work as a team to provide great customer service in the industry have access to share in tips left by customers, as this legislation clearly allows,” said Angelo Amador, executive director of the Restaurant Law Center, or the NRA’s legal arm.
“But our concern is the enforcement and penalty language for unintentional violations goes too far,” Amador added.
The more than 2,000-page bill was approved in the House with a 256-167 vote, and passage in the Senate is also expected. Trump administration officials also indicated the President would sign it, despite concessions to Democrats.
The bill included a large increase in federal spending on defense, funding for part of a border wall, and efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
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