Tip pooling bill dies

Sponsor gives up on tip pooling

Withdraws bill from “free committee” consideration

HB112 took wages for distribution to others by employers

The tip pooling bill finally expired this week when the sponsor withdrew it from consideration by a conference committee Thursday.

Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff

Sponsor Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff convinced legislative leadership to name a “free committee” to take the bill up. Unlike an ordinary conference committee, which is restricted to working only on the differences in the versions of the legislation passed by the House and Senate, a free committee can work on all aspects of a bill. But Petroff called off the discussion. In a Thursday story that appeared in the Sheridan Press, she blamed the media for distorting the bill’s effect. “Because the perception has gotten so far off base because of some of the media coverage, we didn’t want to proceed and have people think we were trying to harm the employees,” Petroff told the Sheridan paper. Though couched in assurances that the bill, HB 112 Tip distribution policies, would ensure fair pooling of tips to a “team” of employees, the ESPC believes one intention of the sponsors was to legalize an employer’s use of money that servers contribute to tip pools to pay the federal minimum wage owed other workers. Here’s how it would work: State law says a worker cannot be considered a tipped employee unless they receive at least $30 per month in tips. Most bus staff and many other workers don’t meet that threshold. Employers must pay those workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25. But if employers can force those workers into a tip pool, they will receive more than $30 a month in tips. Once a worker hits that threshold, the employer can pay the state authorized “tipped minimum” wage of $2.13/hour rather than the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. With the pool set up, the employer then can close her checkbook and take money from the tips pool to bring the bus staff (and/or other “qualifying” employees) up to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The bill is dead for 2013, however, the restaurant industry will not give up its effort to get their hands on wages earned via tips. Tip pools have been legalized in many other states. They are authorized under federal law with fewer restrictions than those Rep. Petroff included in her bill. Unfortunately, most of the targets of this legislation are low-wage workers with few benefits. A 2011 paper titled “Tip-Misappropriation, Minimum Wage, and other Common Service Industry Wages Issues” notes this: “The typical tipped employee is an adult woman who is poor and has few fringe benefits. Of all tipped employees, 70% are women, 47% have a high school education or less, 45% are age 30 or older, and almost 15% are below the federal poverty line (more than double the rate for all workers). “Compared with all working people, food service workers are only about half as likely to have health insurance, sick leave, and retirement benefits, and only two-thirds as likely to have paid vacations.”

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