Maine AG Joins Opposition To DOL Rule Targeting Tipped Workers' Pay

Dec 11, 2019

Maine's Attorney General Aaron Frey is joining his counterparts in 17 other states and the District of Columbia in opposing a new U.S. Department of Labor rule that would change how tipped workers hourly pay is determined.

Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Me
Credit Flickr

"I think a lot of people don't realize that servers and bartenders get paid a lower wage because tips are meant to make up for the other wages they would otherwise be making," says Mike Tipping.

Tipping is with the Maine People's Alliance, one of the groups that led the successful 2016 campaign to raise Maine's minimum wage.

Currently, employers are able to pay tipped employees less per hour if they're performing tipped work, such as waiting tables, for 80 percent of their work week.

The proposed rules would remove that requirement and replace it with more general guidance that the non-tipped work must be done at the same time as, or within a reasonable time immediately before or after, the tipped work.

Opponents of the rule say that it's confusing for employers and open to abuse. And Tipping says workers will pay the price.

"It would be a wage cut for thousands of servers and bartenders in Maine, and I'm very glad to see the AG taking a strong stand against it."

Tipping says that's because some servers spend much more than the remaining 20 percent of their work week doing non-tipped work. Thus, under the new rule, they'd be working for many hours a week for a lower wage. 

"For many servers I've spoken to, especially ones who work for national fast casual chains, they say they're forced to work for hours cleaning or doing kitchen prep," Tipping says. "This rule would codify that."

In their letter, the AGs say the Department of Labor didn't follow the law in the process of enacting the rule, and that it is contrary to the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The comment period for the new rule ends today.