Attorneys General Defending Rights of Tipped Workers by Challenging Proposed Labor Rule

December 10, 2019

AUGUSTA - Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, as part of a coalition 19 attorneys general led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, submitted a comment letter to the Department of Labor opposing its proposed rescission of protections for tipped workers.

Under Maine wage and hour law, employers are required to pay their employees the minimum wage, which in Maine is $11.00 per hour. Currently, if an employee works in a service job with tips, Maine employers can meet this requirement either by paying employees the full minimum wage or by paying a lower cash wage, no less than $5.50 per hour, and take a credit for the difference with the tips that employees earn. This is known as the "tip credit." In Maine the combination of tip credit and base wage must add up to the minimum wage by the end of the 7-day work week. If it doesn't the employer must pay the difference.

For decades, tipped workers have been protected by what is known as the 80/20 Rule. The rule ensures that any worker being paid the lower cash wage-due to their employer utilizing the tip creditspends at least 80 percent of their work time doing tipped work.

Under DOLs proposal, the 80/20 Rule would be eliminated and employers would be able to assign virtually unlimited amounts of non-tipped work such as cleaning, cooking and other back of the house tasks while still taking a tip credit and paying workers a lower wage.

This proposal would harm workers, increasing their uncertainty about take-home pay and opening the door to potential abuse from employers, said Frey. This rule should not be adopted.

In their comment letter, the attorneys general explain that the proposed rule would further erode the already low wages of tipped workers and leave them more vulnerable to wage theft. The coalition further argues that the proposal is contrary to the purpose of the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect workers and that DOL did not abide by the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to examine the proposals impact on wages and increased reliance on social safety net programs.

Along with Maine, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Massachusetts, todays comment letter was filed by the Attorneys General of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Supporting documents

Comment Letter