Who’s really stealing your wages?

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 iwwasheville@gmail.com.

— Rebekah David
IWW Asheville


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3 thoughts on “Who’s really stealing your wages?

  1. Yaas

    Thanks for having our backs, IWW! One question: do you know if it is legal for an employer to require employee to purchase a uniform from the restaurant?

    Also wonder if other restaurant servers are experiencing the issue of having to tip out the kitchen, which seems to be for the most part illegal in this state.

  2. bekahdavid

    Regarding uniforms, the short answer is “yes,” an employer can require employees to purchase a uniform… with stipulations:

    From http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs16.htm:

    “If the employer requires the employee to bear the cost [of purchasing a uniform], it may not reduce the employee’s wage below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

    For example, if an employee who is subject to the statutory minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is paid an hourly wage of $7.25, the employer may not make any deduction from the employee’s wages for the cost of the uniform nor may the employer require the employee to purchase the uniform on his/her own. However, if the employee were paid $7.75 per hour and worked 30 hours in the workweek, the maximum amount the employer could legally deduct from the employee’s wages would be $15.00 ($.50 X 30 hours).

    The employer may prorate deductions for the cost of the uniform over a period of paydays provided the prorated deductions do not reduce the employee’s wages below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation in any workweek.”

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