I am writing in response to Jennifer Casey's Feb. 6 letter, "We Are Not All Made of Patience. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the author and the rest of the service workers of Asheville of their rights as employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
First, and most importantly, the customer who walks out on his tab is not necessarily "stupid" or "ignorant" to believe that the restaurant will cover the loss. If you earn minimum wage (which, as Casey stated, is essentially a little more than $2 an hour for tipped employees; the employer claims a "tip credit" for the difference), it is illegal for your employer to force you to pay for customers who walk out without paying their bills (or for improperly totaled bills).
If you earn above the minimum wage, your employer cannot force you to pay for his or her financial losses if the amount you're being forced to cover reduces your earnings below minimum wage.
To the author of last week's letter: I don't mean to discount your justified anger at the customers who decide to walk out. I simply want you to know that some of the anger in this situation (stemming from the perception that the customer is essentially stealing your wages from you) may be misdirected.
For more information on your rights and specific information about for how much of your employer's financial losses you could be forced to pay, visit the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor's website at http://www.dol.gov/whd (search for "tipped"), or call their hotline at 866-4US-WAGE. You can also email your local IWW branch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Rebekah David