New Trump administration rule could force servers to share tips

By: Deedee Sun

Updated:

The Trump administration is rolling back more Obama-administration rules. The change could require some restaurant workers to pool all tips and split that money with their colleagues.

Right now pooling tips is against the law but if the Labor Department approves the new rule, restaurants would have the option to change the system. 

The owner of Buckley's in Seattle says his employees don't support it, and it's something he won’t do, but some restaurant advocates think it's a good thing.

“I was going, 'Oh jeez, no, bad idea.' For our business, for the way we run things, no, bad idea,” said Tim Buckley, who owns the Buckley’s pubs in Queen Anne and Belltown. 

“It’s just not fair. They work very hard, great service, great bartenders. It's not right to take what's theirs. I try to take care of my employees,” Buckley said. 

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A server, J, has worked at the Queen Anne location for nearly six years, and he doesn’t support tip pooling. 

“It doesn't allow any breathing room to reward people for hard work, and it allows everyone else to skate by who makes the same money. I'm confused and concerned for sure,” J said. 

The Labor Department says the rule would "decrease wage disparities between tipped and non-tipped workers."

Buckley says J gets paid $11 per hour before tips. Tuesday night, he earned $39 an hour in tips. 

“So that's about $50 per hour he's making. And they earn it, they truly earn it,” Buckley said.

He says his hourly kitchen staff earns $17 to more than $20 per hour.

One of the cooks says while he wouldn't mind a tip pool, he isn't unhappy with what he earns. 

Washington's Hospitality Association works to help make sure businesses in the industry succeed. 

The president and CEO, Anthony Anton, told KIRO7 by phone he thinks tip pooling can improve teamwork and customer service. 

“I think this is a very powerful thing,” Anton said. “If your order is wrong or if something else that gives you a poor experience in a restaurant, the tip is usually affected. And when all those things go great, it makes sense the whole team should be rewarded,” he said.

Nationally, one big criticism of the rule change is that in some cases, employers could be included in the tip-pool split. 

But Anton says Washington law prevents that. 

“When it’s connected to WA state law that already exists and continues to exist, that ensures owners and managers can never benefit from a tip pool, this is truly a benefit for teamwork, this is truly a win for the entire house,” he said. 

The Labor Department is expected to make a final decision on the rule in about 30 days. If the rule passes, restaurants are not required to follow it, but would have the option. 
 

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