Proposal to pool and redistribute workers' tips raises questions

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Pocketing tips at the end of a shift is often extra cash servers depend on, but the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposal that would let restaurants pool tips then redistribute them.

At the Galleria Winking Lizard Tavern the money servers make is all theirs.

"Right now, currently, we're on more of a rewards program where each individual person is responsible for their tips. What they make is what they earn," said General Manager Robert Shoens.

Shoens said he believes the current system works well and doesn't need to be changed.

The proposal would let restaurants redistribute workers' tips to other employees, including workers, like chefs and dishwashers, who work in the back.

"That could be beneficial and it could harm some people as there are some people who maybe have $900 in sales and somebody who has $300 in sales, so it helps out the people who maybe didn't make as much and it maybe hurts the people who are your top sellers and your top performers," Shoens said.

Supporters, like the National Restaurant Association, said removing restrictions lessens the "disparity between the 'front of the house' and the 'back of the house,'" since workers in the back traditionally aren't tipped.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown opposes the proposal. On Twitter he said, "Tips belong to the workers who earn them. Period."

Shoens also said it's possible pooling tips could change some workers' attitudes.

"Some people are going to think: 'Why should I work so hard when I can just kinda ease through and make the same amount of money?'" he said.

Shoens said the Winking Lizard Tavern would immediately implement any new rules or laws decided by the government.

Cleveland 19 also reached out to Senator Rob Portman Thursday evening to ask his take on the proposal, but didn't hear back.

Some people, who are against this proposal, believe the change could help employers earn more money because they could legally pocket servers tips with this rule.

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