The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA 2009-12. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In this Opinion Letter, the DOL confirmed that barbacks who receive tips from the bartenders they support qualify as tipped employees and therefore are eligible for tip credits. A barback is described as an assistant to the bartender who works the same hours as a bartender and whose primary duty is to support the bartender.
In this case, the barbacks did not directly receive tips from customers but from the bartenders they supported. The tips were more than $30 per month. Tip splitting or pooling is allowed under the FLSA in certain circumstances and the tips are allocated to the employee who retains them. Since the barbacks are “engaged in an occupation in which [they] customarily and regularly [receive] more than $30 a month in tips” they qualify as “tipped employees”.
State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.