Can a restaurant make servers pay for customers who walk out on tickets?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a restaurant make servers pay for customers who walk out on tickets?

If a table at a restaurant departs/sneaks out and does not pay, can the manager force to make the server pay the tab? The tab in this case was $100.

Asked on February 26, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, New Mexico


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

When a customer leaves a restaurant without paying it is called a "dine and dash". In most states, it is against the law for an employer to deduct from a worker's salary for an amount owed by a customer who has skipped out on their check. Minimum wage law guarantees full pay for all hours worked. An employer who illegally deducts money from an employee's wages faces severe penalties unless a worker specifically agrees to this in writing or the terms of an employment contract/union agreement allow for this. However, an employee could be terminated for not doing so. The fact is that most work relationships are "at will". This means that you can choose to work for an employer or not. In turn, your employer can fire you for any reason or no at all. Accordingly, while you have the legal right to refuse to make up for a walk-out, you could lose your job for not doing so. 
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