The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with 750 restaurant servers and bartenders in a class-action lawsuit prompted by unfair wage deductions.
The plaintiffs, all former employees of now closed bars Drink and Spin Nightclub in Minneapolis, claimed that holding a server or bartender responsible for covering the tabs of customers who walk out on their bills is a violation of state law.
“This ruling deals with a practice that is sort of the dirty little secret of Twin Cities bars and restaurants — where if the till’s short, you’ve gotta pay if you want to keep your job,” Steven Smith, lead attorney for the employees, told the Star Tribune.
Smith tells the Pioneer Press that the practice is fairly common. It was stated during testimony that employees were required to pay for register shortages, bills left by customers who walked out and unsigned credit card receipts or risk being fired.
A jury in Hennepin County District Court decided that the employers hadn't violated Minnesota's equal pay for equal work law.
The case moved to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which decided that the pay deductions were lawful as long as employees' wages still exceeded minimum wage. Since the employees failed to show their wages fell below minimum wage, the court affirmed the jury's decision.
However, the state's High Court said the law does not require employees to show that deductions caused their wages to fall below minimum wage, and sent the case back to district court, where appropriate damages will be determined, the Pioneer Press said.
Their award could surpass six figures, Smith told the Star Tribune.