By Sarah Green
In the latest decision concerning service charges and tips in the hospitality industry, the Maine Supreme Court recently addressed whether banquet wait staff may share a “service charge” paid by customers with other employees under Maine law without violating Maine’s tip credit statute. In Hayden-Tidd v. The Cliff House & Motels, Inc., the plaintiff, a former banquet server, appealed summary judgment dismissing her putative class action, which alleged that the employer violated Maine law by not paying her and her fellow servers the entire mandatory “service charge” assessed to customers when the employer instead shared the service charge among other banquet employees. The Maine Supreme Court held that the employer’s practice did not violate Maine law.
Specifically, Maine law in effect during the plaintiff’s employment provided that an employer could pay only half of the minimum wage to its employees who received tips sufficient to raise their wages at or above the statutory minimum ($7.50 per hour during the relevant period). In order to ensure that employees received the entire tip left by the customer, the tip credit statute further required that “[t]ips that [were] automatically included in the customer’s bill or that [were] charged to a credit card must be given to the service employee.”