Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Block Employers From Pocketing Tips

In December, the Labor Department proposed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would change some rules surrounding tip pooling, making it easier for employers to pocket servers' tips and just pay them minimum wage. Naturally, this didn't sit well with many restaurant-industry employees. And what the public heard about this proposal wasn't even the worst of it: The proposal was such a raw deal for workers that the Labor Department hid the projections—that workers stand to lose billions of dollars in tips—from the final report.

But two lawmakers are pushing back. Nation's Restaurant News reports that two Democratic congresswomen, Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, have introduced a bill called the Tip Income Protection Act (ha TIP) to prevent employers from keeping workers' tips. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is on board and has publicly voiced his support for such legislation.

"No one wants or believes an establishment should keep tips," he told the House Appropriations Committee this week. "So I fully support a provision that says 'establishments should not be permitted to keep any portion of a tip.'"

The Economic Policy Institute finds that employers who pocket their staff's tips cost workers $8 billion annually. That's an average of $3,300 to a year-round worker who is likely already among some of the lowest-paid employees in the country.

The question is whether other lawmakers will back the TIP bill, and whether the Department of Labor has the legal grounds to regulate tipping. Circuit courts haven't come to a consensus on the matter.

"Every day, workers depend on their hard-earned tips to feed their families and get through school," Rep. Clark said in a statement. "And the least this administration can do is offer assurances that their bosses won't steal from them."