The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently published an Opinion Letter (FLSA-2018-27) reissuing its January 16, 2009 guidance (Opinion Letter FLSA-2009-23) and reversing its Obama-era position on the 20% tip credit rule. This opinion letter marks another major shift in DOL’s policy and presents a welcome change for employers in the restaurant industry.
The practice of “tip-pooling,” which refers to the sharing of tips between “front-of-house” staff (servers, waiters, bartenders) and “back-of-house” staff (chefs and dishwashers), has been in the news recently as the Trump Department of Labor (“DOL”) seeks to roll back a 2011 Obama-era rule limiting the practice under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently held in Marlow v. The New Food Guy, Inc. that an employer that pays its employees a set wage over the minimum wage can retain tips for itself and does not have to share them with employees. No. 16-1134 (10th Cir. June 30, 2017).
The New Food Guy, Inc., a Colorado company doing business as Relish Catering, employed Bridgette Marlow to provide catering services. Relish paid Marlow a base wage of $12 an hour and $18 an hour for overtime. Although this was well above the $7.25 federal minimum required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Marlow sued Relish because it did not increase her wage with a share of the tips paid by customers. Relish moved for a judgment on the pleadings and the United States District Court for the District of Colorado held in its favor. After failing to get the Colorado court to reconsider the judgment, Marlow appealed.