DOL Issues New Enforcement Rules on Tipped Employees

by Kathleen J. Jennings (kjj@wimlaw.com)

Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced new enforcement rules for investigating businesses for potentially improperly paying food servers and other tipped workers. Specifically, Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) No. 2019-2 explains that, consistent with WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2018-27 (Nov. 8, 2018), the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will no longer prohibit an employer from taking a tip credit based on the amount of time an employee spends performing duties related to a tip-producing occupation that are performed contemporaneously with direct customer-service duties or for a reasonable time immediately before or after performing such direct-service duties

Under the revised FOH 30d00(f), WHD staff will determine whether a tipped employee’s non-tipped duties are related to the tipped occupation by using the following principles:

• Non-tipped duties listed as examples in 29 C.F.R. § 531.56(e), and non-tipped duties listed as core or supplemental for the appropriate tip-producing occupation in the Tasks section of the Details report in the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) [https://www.onetonline.org/], are related duties.

• An employer may take a tip credit for any amount of time that an employee spends on related, non-tipped duties performed contemporaneously with the tipped duties—or for a reasonable time immediately before or after performing the tipped duties—regardless whether those duties involve direct customer service.

• Employers may not take a tip credit for time spent performing any tasks that are not contained in 29 C.F.R. 531.56(e), or in the O*NET task list for the employee’s tipped occupation, or—for a new occupation without an O*NET description—in the O*NET task list for a similar occupation. Note, however, that some of the time that a tipped employee spends performing these tasks—which are unrelated to the employee’s tipped occupation—may be subject to the de minimis rule in 29 C.F.R. § 785.47.

Employers remain prohibited from keeping tips received by their employees, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit under the FLSA. In addition, employers electing to use the tip credit provision must ensure tipped employees receive at least the minimum wage when direct (or cash) wages and the tip credit amount are combined. If an employee’s tips combined with the employee’s direct (or cash) wages do not equal the minimum hourly wage of $7.25 per hour, the employer must continue to make up the difference.

The Field Assistance Bulleting states that WHD staff should apply the new enforcement rules in investigations involving non-tipped duties performed by tipped employees on or after November 8,2018. As a matter of enforcement policy, WHD staff should also follow the revised guidance in FOH 30d00(f) in any open or new investigation concerning work performed prior to the issuance of WHD Opinion Letter FLSA2018-27 on November 8, 2018.

Kathleen Jennings, Principal is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. She defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at kjj@wimlaw.com.

©2019 Wimberly Lawson

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