Tipping point: side work could result in additional compensation for tipped employees



A US Department of Labor proposal would restore a long-standing policy requiring restaurants to pay tipped workers the full minimum wage when they spend more than 20% of their time on “side work” – a restaurant term for workers. tasks that do not generate tips.

Specifically, the proposed rule change, announced on July 19, would bring back the 80/20 rule, which was revoked under President Donald Trump’s administration. This rule dictates that when servers spend more than 20% of their working time doing ancillary work, the employer must pay them at least the minimum wage rather than paying less than the minimum while enjoying a credit. tip.

Nationally, the minimum wage is $ 7.25 an hour, but workers who regularly earn tips can be paid $ 2.13 an hour by employers. In Missouri, the minimum wage is higher, at $ 10.30 for regular workers or $ 5.15 for tip workers. Restaurants claim credit for tips earned by workers whose work regularly includes tips, allowing them to meet the minimum wage requirement. The side work of a restaurant waiter on a regular shift can include tasks such as assembling salads or making a pot of coffee. Sometimes the side work can be more complex, however, with tasks such as cleaning workstations or setting up dining rooms.

The proposed policy also proposes an addition to the rule, a requirement that restaurants pay a minimum wage to workers whose side work lasts at least 30 consecutive minutes, regardless of the percentage of work time they spend.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that conducts economic research, had estimated that the removal of the 80/20 rule by the Trump administration would cost workers more than $ 700 million in wages a year. The proposal to reinstate the 80/20 policy aims to reverse this loss.

Andrea Ryder is one of the managers of Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub, located at 1935 S. Glenstone Ave. Asked about reinstating the 80/20 and 30-minute rules, she expressed surprise. “I didn’t even know it wasn’t a thing,” she said.

Ryder said Jimm’s policy has always been that waiters receive at least minimum wage when not earning a tip by serving customers directly.

“We never changed that here at Jimm’s,” she said.

Sometimes workers arrive early to perform various tasks required to open the restaurant, Ryder said, and they are always paid at least minimum wage.

“I really think it’s fair,” she said. “If someone here is working on a tip wage and is not in a position to tip at that time, it is quite fair to pay them at least the minimum.”

A mile and a half south of Jimm, just off Glenstone Avenue at 1723 E. Battlefield Road, Matt Arnall owns and operates Downing Street For House.

Arnall, who has a lot of experience in the restaurant business, from handling the bus tray to working in a corporate office, has no problem with the proposed return to the 80/20 policy.

“I think that’s the way it should be. I do not see any negative point there, ”he declared. “If you get paid to do a job, you shouldn’t have to work outside the confines of that job just because your employer is trying to save money. I don’t think that’s the right way to treat people.

At Arnall’s Restaurant, the policy of paying a fair wage to servers who do not actively earn tips is already in place, but he understands that this policy is not universal.

The problem is, there are a lot of places for moms and dads that hire waiters to serve, and they end up doing the dishes, making food – that’s just not what they are there. to do, ”Arnall said.

Arnall said it was reasonable for waiters to roll up silverware, make tea, clean up after themselves, and do whatever they need to do to serve their guests.

“The reason they even have this rule is that you will find people doing the dishes and preparing the food, and that’s way outside of the bounds of what they should be doing,” he said. “This 80/20 thing isn’t a hard concept to grasp, but a lot of restaurant guys and girls try to act like it’s because they don’t want to follow it.”

Statewide in St. Louis, Missouri Restaurant Association CEO Bob Bonney suggested there was a bit more to the problem.

“If you look at the current situation where restaurants are not able to recruit staff at a level where they can sit all their tables, why would a restaurant require an employee to do an excessive amount of unserviceable work? customers ? ” He asked.

Reasonableness is a standard Bonney likes to apply to this issue. He said side work, in the majority of cases, is accepted by tipped employees.

“Neither side had a problem with that. This covers the overwhelming majority of cases today, ”he said.

In the current climate, no good restaurateur would try to get by without paying workers a fair wage, according to Bonney.

“It would take less than a stellar restaurant operator to try to take advantage of your people in this environment,” he said.

Bonney believes that if an employer requires tipping employees to perform an excessive amount of non-tipping work, it is best to address this situation with the Missouri Department of Labor, which may enforce the use of the credit. tip by restaurants, or the possibility for employers to count the tips of their servers in the calculation of the minimum wage.

“No restaurant would want to lose the ability to use tip credit, and few restaurants – extremely few restaurants – would want someone to leave them because they are being treated unfairly,” said Bonney.

Bonney recognizes that every industry has its bad players, and restaurants are no exception. “The Missouri Restaurant Association never wanted to be a safe haven and protect someone who was not acting fairly with the law,” he said.

But the 80/20 policy was never law at all, according to Bonney – it was just language in an internal manual for the Department of Labor. Codifying it could backfire in some cases, Bonney said.

“If it becomes too unreasonable, in my opinion, you are going to invite a situation where table service decreases,” he said. “You will place your order at a counter, they will call you, you will go and collect your order. “

Bonney said there will always be restaurant patrons who like to sit down and be looked after in a refined way. Likewise, he said, there will always be servers ready to do the job, often for a very good income.

“I hope this is in a reasonable and fair manner, not only for the employee but for the employer,” he said.

Fair pay and fair treatment certainly contributed to Ryder’s sense of satisfaction at the steakhouse.

“Jimm is the best employer I have ever had when it comes to wages,” she said of Jimm Swafford, the managing partner and namesake of Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub. “It’s an amazing place to work. “

Not all tipped employees share Ryder’s positive pay experience, and for them, the Department of Labor’s restored rules are meant to spur change.

Bonney is skeptical of the applicability of the Biden administration’s reversal of these changes.

“The question becomes a question of practicality in its implementation,” he said. “It is not reasonable for an employer to be forced to follow a waiter and calculate with a stopwatch the minutes and seconds during which he does this non-tipping work. Are you going to start your stopwatch when they open a new packet of coffee, empty the old grounds, pour in the new grounds, press Start? “

For Downing Street For House and Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub, the extra work is limited to what waiters need to do to take care of their customers, according to Ryder and Arnall. Ryder pointed out that at Jimm’s, the fully paid pre-service setup work takes place before customers are present.

Bonney noted that without a stopwatch, it would be difficult for an employer to refute a worker’s claims in court. The result will be futile prosecutions, he predicts.

The proposal is open for public comment until August 23, after which a decision will be made by the Ministry of Labor.


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