By: Douglas Weiner
In a recently reported case from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Applebee’s servers and bartenders alleged they spent a “substantial” amount of time performing non-tipped work, such as cleaning and maintenance, and, therefore, should be paid the minimum wage of $7.25 for the time spent performing non-tipped work, rather than the direct wage of $2.13 the FLSA allows employers to pay employees in tipped occupations See 29 U.S.C. § 203(m) and 29 U.S.C. § 203(t).
Applebee’s argued it properly applied a tip credit to the servers and bartenders’ direct wage earnings because they worked in tipped occupations, and received more than the minimum wage for all hours worked in direct wages paid by the employer plus the tips they received. Thus, a “dual job” analysis was not required, because cleaning and maintaining work areas are duties related and incidental to their tipped occupations of bartending and serving. See 29 C.F.R. § 531.56(e)
The Eighth Circuit rejected Applebee’s argument, holding there was a temporal limit to the amount of non-tipped work a tipped employee may perform to retain tip credit eligibility. Specifically, the Eighth Circuit observed that 29 C.F.R. § 531.56(e) provided employees may perform related duties in a tipped occupation that are not themselves tip producing “part of the time or occasionally.” In defining “part of the time” and “occasionally,” the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that Section 30d00(e) of the Department of Labor’s Field Operations Handbook is entitled to deference for the requirement that where more than 20% of a tipped employee’s time is spent on non tipped work, the employer cannot take the tip credit for that time, and must pay the full minimum wage for non-tipped work.
In the Hospitality industry, dual jobs may be found in many varieties. Examples include servers who perform duties as ice sculptors, pastry decorators, or floral arrangers, or runners and bussers who make salads, polish silverware, stock inventory or wash dishes.
STEPS TO MINIMIZE RISK
To avoid “dual job” claims from tipped employees, employers are well advised to keep accurate records of the time employees spend performing non-tipped duties. In a typical 6 hour shift, where the employer can demonstrate through time records that less than 1.2 hours was devoted to non tipped work, the employer’s use of the tip credit will ordinarily be upheld. Daily and weekly records allow the employer to prove the percent of time spent in tipped and non-tipped work.
Another step to minimize “dual job” claims is to require all tipped employees to perform the same amount of incidental duties, rather than limiting the non-tipped work to designated individuals. Employers may also want to require that available non-tipped employees perform the non-tipped producing work.