Can a fast food chain put cups out for customers to tip?

UPDATED: May 24, 2011

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Can a fast food chain put cups out for customers to tip?

I live in NYC and I came across a fast food chain at a particular location with a tip cup and a sign on it saying “tips appreciated”. Is that legal? Do servers at a restaurant have to share tips? They are usually put in a bucket and counted at the end of their shifts and divided equally?

Asked on May 24, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:

1) Can a fast food place put out a cup for tips? Absolutely. There is no general law against any worker, in any context, asking for tips--though certainly the rules or regulations pertaining to specific jobs (e.g. government may prevent it).

2) What is done with the tips--it is legal to either have each server keep his or her own tips or to pool and distribute them at the end of the shift. (If pooled, only serving personnel, not, for example, cooks or managers, may share in it.) While they have to comport with labor law, this is an internal issue that does not need to concern patrons; they should tip, or not, based on service, not on the tip policy of the place.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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