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House Democrats to Labor Secretary Scalia: Uphold Protections for Tipped Workers

12.11.19

WASHINGTON – Today, led by Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), and Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), House Democrats sent a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia condemning the Department’s proposed changes to tip regulations that the Economic Policy Institute estimates could cost workers more than $700 million annually. 

For nearly three decades, the Department of Labor enforced guidance, commonly referred to as the “80-20 rule,” that prohibits employers from paying a tipped employee the tipped subminimum wage when the employee has spent more than 20 percent of their workweek performing related, non-tipped duties at work. 

The Department’s proposal would, in part, place no limitation on the amount of time a tipped employee can perform related, non-tipped activities and still be paid the tip subminimum wage. The Members note that even the Department concedes that this proposal could cost jobs for non-tipped workers who would have their duties shifted to tipped workers, and cost tipped workers much-needed tip income.  

“As the Department concedes, without the safeguard of the 80-20 rule, tipped employees could ‘lose tipped income by spending more of their time performing duties where they are not earning tips, while still receiving cash wages of less than minimum wage,’” the Members wrote. “While we believe the most protective standard for tipped workers is ensuring they are paid the full federal minimum wage for all hours worked, until Congress passes such a law, the Department should uphold its longstanding 80-20 rule to protect tipped workers.” 

The Members also note that, contrary to rulemaking requirements, the Department failed to include quantitative estimates of the impact of its proposed rule—echoing previous concerns about the Department’s failure to publish relevant information about its proposed rules. In 2018, the Department withheld evidence showing a previously proposed tip rule would cut wages for tipped workers. Those actions are currently the subject of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General.  

Read the full text of the letter to Secretary Scalia here

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