Some skeptical over changes for tipping
Proposal would allow employers to keep money in some cases.
A proposal from the Department of Labor that would give employers more discretion over tips could have a big financial impact on workers who get tips.
Under the rule change, employers could keep tips as long as all their workers are paid at least federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour.
That would be a change from a rule set up in 2011 that let restaurant owners require tipped employees to participate in tip pools only if the pool is shared among other traditionally tipped workers — such as servers, bussers and bartenders. Those employees are considered customer-facing, “front of house” staff.
Brandi Ehrhart, a server at the Golden Jersey Inn located at Young’s Jersey Dairy, is wary of the proposed rule.
Tips aren’t just icing or something extra for someone like Ehrhart. It’s a mainstay in how she makes her living. Weekends and busier days can lead to more lavish tips — so the harder a tipped employee works, the more she or he can earn.
“I’ve been doing this for close to 16 years,” Ehrhart said. “So it’s definitely my salary.”
The U.S. Department of Labor proposal received more than 200,000 public comments.
Proponents say sharing the tips with “back of the house” staff — like cooks and dishwashers — would address a disparity in pay between tipped and nontipped employees.
“We think it’s unfair for a busboy who picks up dirty dishes to be able to get tips but for a dishwasher who cleans the dishes not to be allowed to share the tips,” Angelo Amador, an executive with the National Restaurant Association, told the New York Times recently.
But critics protest that nothing in the rule would actually require employers to distribute the tips, as long as all workers are paid at least minimum wage.
The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning national think tank, said the change would cost tipped workers $5.8 billion a year.
Dan Young, chief executive and owner of Young’s Jersey Dairy, located near the Clark-Green county line, doesn’t plan to change years of tipping practices for his staff, although he said he doesn’t necessarily oppose giving owners a “choice” in how tips are distributed.
Young has two dining establishments, a sit-down restaurant called the Golden Jersey Inn and a dairy store dining area, where customers order at a counter. Tips are common at the sit-down restaurant, which has been open for 21 years.
“First of all, it’s like decades of tradition,” Young said. “I don’t really feel a need for it here. Our thoughts here are the servers traditionally do the work to receive that (tips).”
He understands the issue of disparity between pay at the “front of the house” and pay at the “back.” But he doesn’t see the rule as a solution.
“I know there have been a few restaurants over the last four or five years that have tried eliminating tips,” Young said. “That doesn’t work.”
He thinks tipping is something of an ingrained habit among his regular customers.
“It would take two or three generations to change that,” Young said.
Monica Moran, managing director of Progress Ohio, a liberal-leaning policy organization, called the proposal “essentially wage theft.”
Tipped workers are paid a lower minimum wage than non-tipped employees, she noted. In Ohio, tipped workers are required to be paid at least $4.15 an hour while non-tipped employees are to get at least $8.30 an hour.
“By pooling those dollars (tips), you are giving more to people who are possibly already earning a higher wage than those who are counting on that (tip) to make up and supplement the wage they’re making,” Moran said.
At the Golden Jersey Inn, waiters and waitresses don’t simply serve. They bus and clean their own tables, Ehrhart said.
At Young’s, tipped employees keep their tips. But Ehrhart said she has had to work at other places where tips were required to be shared.
“The only part that I don’t like about sharing is, you know, if somebody is not doing their job,” she said. “I am more than OK to share if they’re helping me and doing something. But if not, it doesn’t seem fair.”
Brandi Ehrhart, a server at Young’s Golden Jersey Inn, says tips are an integral part of her job. The owner of Young’s Jersey Dairy says he doesn’t plan to change how his workers are tipped, even with a new proposed Labor Department rule being discussed.