An important wage-and-hour decision was handed down this week in Indiana when a judge rejected a motion for class certification in a tip credit case filed against the Applebee’s restaurant chain.
The suit, brought by Jessica Roberts, was filed against the Applebee’s located in South Bend, Indiana. Roberts sued on behalf of all the servers, bartenders and hosts at her location claiming that the individuals were all paid below minimum wage for performing duties for which they received no tips.
The suit was filed under the tip credit provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act which allows companies to pay employees less than minimum wage provided that the employees receive tips, are informed about the tip credit and earn at least minimum wage each week when their tips and their hourly wages are combined. Only those employees who are engaged in traditional tip worthy work are eligible for the tip credit.
Roberts argued in her suit that Applebee’s violated federal labor law when managers required servers and others to perform tasks such as dishwashing, food preparation, kitchen cleaning and even trash removal. Roberts’s complaint argued that she was never tipped for these activities and that, as a result, she should receive minimum wage for the time spent engaged in such tasks.
However, the judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann, disagreed. Springmann wrote that federal regulations do not support her theory in the absence of a more detailed claim. The judge wrote that engaging in such tasks as dishwashing, food prep and basic cleaning are some of the common duties of a server. Judge Springmann said that so long as the tasks that did not involve tipping were only incidental to Roberts’ regular duties, then there was no violation of labor law.
The only time a problem would arise is if the duties exceeded 20 percent of the work time for a staff member. Roberts claimed that in her case she spent more than 20 percent of her time performing non-tipped duties. The judge said that while Roberts would be able to pursue her individual tip credit claim, she refused to certify a class in the absence of specific information showing that the same held true for other workers.
Though the case was certainly bad news for Roberts and her attempted class action, the ruling does give hope to others filing tip credit cases in the future assuming they file their claim with enough specific facts which clearly discuss the percentage of their work duties devoted to non-tipped work.
Source: “Court to Applebee's Servers, Bartenders and Hosts: Washing Dishes and Taking out the Trash May Be All in a Day's Work,” by Marilyn Moran, published at Lexology.com.
Source: “Court Partially Dismisses and Denies Conditional Certification In Tip-Credit Case,” by Greg Mersol, published at EmploymentClassActionReport.com.