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When your waiters do windows

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Companies big and small have long been trying to figure out how to do more with less, but going too far in that direction could land some companies in court. A federal judge’s recent ruling in the latest server vs. restaurant lawsuit may be of interest to eateries that routinely require tipped workers to do tasks such as cleaning restrooms, washing windows and other jobs that aren’t directly related to serving food to customers.

Restaurant servers who work primarily for tips must be compensated separately for work such as cleaning toilets, washing dishes and other tasks that qualify as “dual jobs,” according to the ruling from U.S. District Judge Geraldine Brown in the case brought by servers against an Illinois Applebee’s franchisee.

The lawsuit was filed by servers and bartenders at 34 Applebee’s eateries operated by AppleIllinois. In March 2010, the judge certified the workers as a class and last month issued a partial summary judgment ordering the company to pay tipped workers at least minimum wage for tasks that fall outside their job descriptions, according to Courthouse News Service.

The workers said 20% or more of their shifts were spent doing work that wasn’t going toward earning tips. According to federal wage and hour laws, workers aren’t subject to the tip credit for hours in which 20% or more of the work they do isn’t related to their serving jobs and employers are required to pay the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour rather than the tip credit rate of $2.13.

In her ruling, Judge Brown wrote: “The evidence demonstrates that AppleIllinois employees working at tip credit rates did those duties for much longer periods of time than can be fairly characterized as occasional, incidental or insignificant. Rather, employees working at tip credit rates were regularly used instead of minimum wage workers to do those tasks.”

In addition, workers were often asked to do jobs such washing windows and chandeliers, picking up parking lot trash, taking out garbage and other tasks that clearly constituted separate jobs from their main mission of serving customers. “The court concludes that plaintiffs have demonstrated that, as a regular practice, AppleIllinois employed its tipped workers in ‘dual jobs,’ that is, in both tipped and non-tipped occupations.

“Contrary to AppleIllinois’ fears, enforcing the dual jobs regulation does not prohibit ‘a team-oriented approach to serving customers.’ It simply requires that when tipped employees are also required to perform the work of minimum wage workers, they get paid the minimum wage,” the judge wrote in the ruling.

Do your tipped workers pitch in on cleaning, trash pickup and other non-serving chores? Have you had to pay workers higher wages for doing those jobs? Tell us about it in the comments.