When you leave a tip for your server or bartender you probably assume the money is going directly into their pockets. Too often, though, owners, managers and supervisors are taking a significant portion of that gratuity. Sometimes they simply demand a cut from workers, but they also steal by absorbing those automatic “service charges,” charging workers fees on credit card tips, and including themselves in tip pools. There’s no effective federal law against the practice, and Rhode Island has yet to join Massachusetts, California, New York, and several other states in banning it.
At $2.89/hour the Rhode Island tipped employee minimum wage is just slightly above the federal minimum; tip stealing further adds to the pain.
I experienced tip theft firsthand while working in room service at the Renaissance Providence Hotel. The hotel and managers were taking a portion of both the automatic service and our additional gratuities. After our bosses took their cut we were taking home less than half of what customers thought they were giving us. Managers are defrauding their customers every time they take a dollar intended for a server.
A bill to protect tips was proposed last last year that passed overwhelmingly in the House, but never made it out of the Senate Labor Committee. This year Representative Christopher Blazejewski and Senator Erin P. Lynch have again submitted the bill (HB5121 and SB574), and supporters have just released this new video explaining the issue along with an online petition.