Can a restaurant make a server pay a tab if the customer’s credit card company disputes the charge?

UPDATED: Dec 15, 2011

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Can a restaurant make a server pay a tab if the customer’s credit card company disputes the charge?

My friend works as a cocktail server. A customer came in and ran up a $600 bar tab. She ran his tab properly and filled out everything correctly. The costumer totaled and signed his slip as well. Now his credit card company is disputing the charges. And her boss is screaming at her telling her she has to pay the $600 amount because the owner won’t take the loss. She has a new born baby and cannot afford to pay this. Can he really hold her responsible for this amount even though she did nothing wrong? He also told her if she didn’t pay it he would fire her.

Asked on December 15, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

These are two different issues:

1) Can your friend be fired? Yes...if she does not have an employment contract, she is almost certainly an "employee at will," which means she  could be fired at any time, for any reason, or even no reason at all (that is, if the employer wants to fire her, he doesn't need any other reason than that). Therefore, if the employer chooses to fire her, he can.

2) Does she have to pay? If she refuses to pay (and is willing to risk being fired), to make her pay, the owner would have to sue her and prove that either she was negligent (unreasonably careless) or acted intentionally wrongfully.

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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