Can my Massachusetts restaurant employer require tip-pooling?
The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office enforces the wage and hour laws, including the Massachusetts Tips Law. I used to work there and enforce those laws. (Individuals can also file their own private cases.) One of my 2014 cases involved a lot of these same issues. In the 2014 case:
Wait staff were required to pay from their tips the full meal costs of customers who left without paying their bills;
Wait staff were required to share their tips with non-wait staff;
Employees were required to pay for diners' meals when a mistake was made;
Employees were required to pay for “breakages” of restaurant dishware;
The employer took deductions from employees' wages for meals that were not eaten;
Employees’ wages were “shaved” to account for alleged break time, but when the employees never actually took the breaks.
The employer paid $100,000 to 174 employees whose employment rights had been violated in the above ways.
Thus, to go back to the above question, tip pooling is permitted in Massachusetts, but the employer taking a portion of the tips or forcing wait staff employees to dole it out to non-service providing employees is prohibited. Forcing employees to cover the cost of those who "chew and screw" is also prohibited. Further, an employer needs to provide a 30 minute break -- which means relief of all duties, up to and including the ability to leave the premises -- to employees who work six or more hours.
Contact me to discuss this in more detail as well as options for moving forward in your case.