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Bill seeks to end 'tip pooling'

COLUMBUS (Jim Heath/WBNS) -- You may be surprised to learn that the tip you leave for your server at a restaurant can be split by management among other employees.  It's called "tip pooling" and now Ohio lawmakers are debating whether to allow it.

The Tip Fairness Act, introduced by state Representative Nickie Antonio, would ban the practice of a restaurant taking a percentage of a server's gross sales to be used to pay out other employees.

"Having a tip pool is a dramatic difference," said Ashley Taylor.  "It affects the money I take home to my family every night."

Taylor is not politically active but she thought it was important to be at the statehouse to voice support for a new bill that would ban the tip pools.

Taylor won't name her employer for fear they may oppose her position.

But she says she's worked at the restaurant for two years and is tired of her earned tips being shared by others, including - in some cases - management.

"Hopefully I won't lose my job," said Taylor.  "They're taking a portion of our assumed tips, a portion of our sales, regardless of whether we make a tip on that sale or not."

Jennifer Moleski is a national proponent for tip pools.  She operates the website Iamwaitress.com.

Moleski says Ohio would be making a mistake in eliminating them.

"It's a horrible idea, if this bill passes the opportunity for excellence is squandered," said Moleski.  "No one is forcing anyone to be employed at any particular restaurant.  So if a restaurant has tip pooling, you can choose to work there or not."

Moleski says tip polling can build morale and increase teamwork among employees.

"If you go out to eat and there's no tip pooling it's more likely not to be a team service," said Moleski.  "That means you have one server that cares about you.  But when you do tip pooling, you have everyone on the floor keeping an eye on you and making sure your experience is great."

But some local restaurants disagree.

"I think it's a system that probably does need to go away," said Tim Emery, owner of the Boston's in the Arena District.  "I don't think tip pooling is really an effective tool to promote the whole teamwork  environment."

Emery says many restaurants, including his, choose to leave the tips to the servers.

"Our employees are tipped by the guests and they like to receive the merit of their own work," said Emery.  "Some people think tip pooling creates an environment of teamwork but personally I think it does just the opposite."

The Ohio Restaurant Association calls the Tip Fairness Act, HB 534, a "non-existent problem."

"The ORA believes that each restaurant owner needs to decide, within the law, what employee compensation package works best for their particular business model," said Jarrod Clabaugh, ORA Director of Communications.  "We are not aware of situations in our state and neither is our national association where a server has to put their own money into a tip pool when the customer leaves no tip. The scenario put forth by Rep Antonio is clearly not representative of industry practice."

Taylor says despite the risks with her bosses, she'll continue her fight.

"It's worth me coming here and letting people know about it," said Taylor.  "It's something I really support."


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