Tipping Point

Is an employer free to establish a no-tipping policy? Yes, said the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), rejecting the argument of a group of current and former Dunkin’ Donuts employees who contended that Massachusetts law prohibits no-tipping policies. You can read the decision by clicking here.

When it enacted the Tips Act (M.G.L. c. 149, S. 152A) the Legislature barred employers from deducting or retaining tips that customers had given to the wait staff.  Counsel for the plaintiffs (the employees) argued that the words “deducting” and “retaining” are flexible enough to mean “prohibiting.” Not so, said the SJC. Making it unlawful for restaurant/bar-owners to keep or skim tips that customers have left for servers is not the same as forbidding them from trying to prevent customers from tipping in the first place. A no-tipping policy simply does not violate the Tips Act.

And so long as the owner clearly communicates the policy to customers, if customers still leave money behind, the servers do not have the right to claim that money as theirs. The employer is not breaking the law by keeping it or giving it away.

So employers: If you have a no-tipping policy, make sure that you get the message across to your customer clearly. That’s my tip for the day.

Pro portrait
Peter Vickery, Esq.

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