It’s no secret that the minimum wage in the US – especially for hospitality workers – is ridiculously low; which is why tipping is customary. In fact, most hospitality workers make most of their money through tips – not through their wages.
However, multiple staff members who work at the Miami Nusr-Et – a restaurant owned by Nusret Gökçe AKA Salt Bae; a viral sensation best known for the way he sprinkles salt – realised that customers were no longer tipping due to a mandatory ‘service charge’ that’s added to every bill.
Upon this discovery, they then found out that this service charge (which at Nurs-Et is always 18% of the bill’s total) was not being divided up and given to staff members on top of their wages. It was instead just going towards their wages as well as other costs to run the restaurant… Meaning these staff members were getting way less money than usual.
So, they sued and argued that this ‘charge’ shouldn’t be used to cover their normal wages, it should be given to them as a ‘bonus’, especially because the very appearance of the charge on every bill leads most customers to think a tip is no longer necessary.
The court has finally come to a decision and ultimately ruled against the staff members though, stating that a compulsory service charge and tips are not the same thing; and that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Nurs-Et is well within its rights to put every 18% service charge towards staff’s wages rather than give it to staff members as a bonus on top of their wages.
In fact, the court outlined that tips are “determined solely by the customer” and that “the essential element of a tip is its voluntary nature,” therefore, because this ‘service charge’ is a mandatory fee the restaurant charges customers, it is definitely not a tip.
So, what does this mean? Well, to put it simply, if you’re at a restaurant – whether it’s one of Salt Bae’s lavish steak houses or not – and there’s a service charge on your bill, you do still need to tip your servers! It’s also a lesson to restaurant owners – treat your staff well otherwise they might try and sue you…