Vision Payroll

February 27, 2010

US Department of Labor Issues and Withdraws Opinion Letter on Tipped Employees

The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-23. 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). Because the letter was apparently never mailed after it was signed, the DOL under new Secretary Hilda L. Solis has decided to withdraw the letter for further consideration. Therefore, this letter may not be relied upon as a statement of agency policy. It is possible that a different conclusion may be reached when the Opinion Letter is reissued.

In this Opinion Letter, the DOL had redefined its definition of a tipped employee in situations in which an employee performs some duties related to a tip-producing occupation and some duties unrelated to a tip-producing occupation. Such employees may have dual jobs, such as a maintenance man in a hotel who also serves as a waiter and a single job with dual responsibilities such as “a waitress who spends part of her time cleaning and setting tables, toasting bread, making coffee and occasionally washing dishes or glasses.”

Different courts had issued conflicting rulings as to whether and to what extent unrelated duties could be performed in tip-producing occupations, how those duties were to be determined, and when the tip credit could be taken. The DOL had attempted to clarify in which situations the credit could be claimed. It had listed certain duties that it considered “core or supplemental for the appropriate tip-producing occupation.” It also wanted to clarify that some time spent performing unrelated duties may be exempt under a de minimis rule in the regulations.

State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. The DOL may come to a different conclusion when it reissues the Opinion Letter after further consideration. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.

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