Federal minimum wage rules govern how they can be pooled among restaurant workers

Jesse Seager was mortified when he found out that what he was doing was wrong.

An audit by the U.S. Department of Labor found the system his restaurants had put in place for sharing tips was not in compliance with federal law.

Mr. Seager said he was trying to do what was fair for all of the employees at his two restaurants, Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze and Park Bruges in Highland Park, where tips are collected by the restaurant and credited to the appropriate employees. Then the tips would be distributed in paychecks to the individual servers, with a percentage pulled out to be given to the bartenders, the hostesses and the dishwashers.

It was the dishwashers that got him in a jam.

The Department of Labor, it turns out, has rules about how restaurants can structure tip sharing and what those businesses can demand of their employees’ tips.

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