Is it legal to have waitstaffs’ tips taken without their knowledge to even out a bartender’s register?

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Is it legal to have waitstaffs’ tips taken without their knowledge to even out a bartender’s register?

This past Sunday when the waitstaffs tips were being bundled up to be paid for later, it was noticed that $20 was missing. When the bartender was questioned he stated that his till was short therefore he took it from the waitstaff. Another bartender then gave $15 back and said he had the right to keep $5 to fix the till. He then stated the General Manager wrote this rule. The General Manager later separately said that he, by law, could not get involved with anything to do with employees tips.

Asked on June 21, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Is there an employee handbook for the establishment that you work for? If there is, read the employee handbook to see if there are guidelines listed concerning tips such as rules, customs and practices. If there is, then most likely "house rules" by the establishment would contro, assuming your question is addressed in the employee handbook.

If there is no employee handbook, or no written rules about tips at the place you work for, what is the custom and practice in the industry about tips being taken by a bartender to even out his register?

My experience is that there is no custom/practice in the restaurant business for a bartender to take one's tip to even out a shortage in his or her register accounting due to his or her own carelessness. What the bartender did technically was wrong and may very well be "illegal" per written statute in the State you live in.


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