Responding to readers

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that one of the features of this column is that I try to respond to readers comments, questions, and suggestions either directly to the reader or in this column depending on the circumstances. I currently have several such so I figured it’s about time to start addressing them so here’s the first one.

Barbara P. rather urgently requested I provide follow up about the proposed labor department rule changing the way tipped employees may be paid.

The essence of this proposed change is that it would replace the current rule that tipped employees, such as waiters, waitresses, and bar tenders who are paid less than minimum wage keep their tips as part of their compensation. Note: In Ohio the “regular” minimum wage is now $8.15 an hour and the tipped employee minimum wage is $4.15 – both of which are above the federal levels.

The proposed rule would allow employers to take the tips that servers earn and share them with untipped employees such as cooks and dishwashers. Yep, that’s right, under the administration’s proposed rule, as long as tipped workers are paid not less than minimum wage, employers can legally pockets servers’ tips.

But here’s the catch – the rule doesn’t actually require employers distribute these “pooled” tips among workers. Employers may keep any or all for themselves.

So how much are we looking at? According to Economic Policy Institute research, tipped workers would lose $5.8 billion a year in tips as a result of this rule with women, who are in the great majority of tipped jobs, losing $4.6 billion annually – and that is a conservative estimate.

The proposed rule change was published on Dec. 15, 2017 and initially closed public comments on January 5, 2018, but that has now been extended to February 5, 2018 after over 10,000 comments were reportedly received.

Obviously, this issue is not over as there has been considerable “pushback” against the proposed rule change by individuals, organizations, and the media. Note: Anyone can submit a comment about the rule, and the Department of Labor is required to read them before they decide what the final rule will look like. Visit and search for “Tip Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” There’s still time to comment if you’re so inclined.

There are other ways to oppose this proposal. According to economist Heidi Shierholz, “States can move to increase the protections in their state. Estimate(s) of the amount of tips that would be pocketed by employers as a result of this rule would have been significantly higher if it weren’t for the fact that many states have laws on the books that prohibit employers from pocketing workers’ tips. Those laws will not be preempted or superseded by the Trump rule, so tipped workers in those states are protected from this rule. Other states can and should follow suit.” How about them apples? More than one way to skin a cat, right?

You know, even under the current rule, a number of employers have been charged with dipping into employees’ tips. One way reportedly results from a customer putting the tip on a credit card. The employee doesn’t get this tip until it shows up on the paycheck — and the amount may not be that designated by the customer. To avoid this possibility, when I put my restaurant bill on my credit card I tip in cash to make sure I know whose pocket the tip goes into.

Being a “server”, those we used to call a “waiter” or “waitress,” is a difficult and demanding occupation. The server must be knowledgeable about the menu including “specials”, permissible substitution of one item for another, the customer’s individual requests, and so on. The food must be served at the correct temperature with the proper timing and drinks replenished as needed.

Folks, try doing this while on your feet for hours on end – and not making a mistake or offending the customer while depending on the customer’s generosity for your income. Anyone who has tried this type of job realizes how challenging it is – and what an unforgettable experience it is in how people treat those who “serve.”

Well, just in case you haven’t realized my position, I’m opposed to this obvious attempt to steal from hard working employees by using the ridiculous excuse that doing so will “equalize” compensation between the servers and non-tipped employees.

And, Barbara, I’ll try to follow this farce as you requested. It’s the kind of subject involving our friends and neighbors we should all be interested in. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]+com.

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]+com.