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Restaurant employees, tips, tip pooling, and the Massachusetts Tip Act

Massachusetts law prohibits employers from retaining, requesting, or accepting any tip given to a wait staff employee or service bartender. Employers are barred from allowing employees who are not wait staff or bartenders from participating in a tip pool.  The Tip Act imposes stiff financial penalties for violations: restitution, mandatory triple damages, attorneys’ fees, and 12% annual interest on any judgment.

The Act’s definition of wait staff is straightforward: a waiter, bus person, and counter staff who: (1) serves beverages or prepared foods directly to patrons, or who clears patrons’ tables; (2) works in a restaurant, banquet facility or other place where prepared food or beverages are served; and (3) who has no managerial responsibility.  The same rules apply to service bartenders.

No “back of the house” employees are permitted to share in tip pooling with “front of the house” employees.  Also, any employee who handles supervisory or managerial responsibilities is prevented from taking any portion of tips as part of a tip pooling policy, even if that employee serves food and beverages.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464
617-969-2900

pam@pamsmithlaw.com

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