Tipped workers and the the 80/20 rule

The provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act require most employers in Tennessee and across the country to pay their workers at a rate no less than the federal minimum wage. Workers who claim that their employers have violated these requirements are often able to support their allegations by providing documents like pay stubs and time sheets that may be difficult to refute, but these cases can be far more challenging when the workers involved are employed by a restaurant and are compensated partly in tips.

While tipped workers are not generally protected by the minimum wage provision of the law, an exception is made for workers who perform two or more jobs. In these situations, the FLSA stipulates that workers must be paid minimum wage for their non-tipped duties. However, this exemption does not apply to tip-related work such as waiters or waitresses clearing tables and replenishing condiments.

Federal wage and hour laws also requires employers to pay at least the minimum wage to tipped workers who are asked to perform work not related to their tipped duties. Such work could include cleaning restaurants, moving furniture and sweeping sidewalks. Side work that is tip related must also be compensated according to minimum wage laws when these duties occupy at least 20 percent of a worker's workweek.

The 80/20 rule is merely a Department of Labor guideline and not a federal regulation, but it has been followed by courts in two federal circuits. However, establishing a wage and hours claim based on the 80/20 rule can be challenging, and attorneys with experience in this area may urge their clients to keep accurate records of both the type of work they were asked to perform and the amount of compensation they received for performing it.

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