Some skep­ti­cal over changes for tip­ping

Pro­posal would al­low em­ploy­ers to keep money in some cases.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Gnau Staff Writer

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.

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