The Alaska Department of Labor has clarified the meaning of a new regulation against enforced tip-pooling. (Sam Truong Dan | Unsplash images)

The Alaska Department of Labor has clarified the meaning of a new regulation against enforced tip-pooling. (Sam Truong Dan | Unsplash images)

Department of Labor clarifies change to tip regulations

Not a blanket ban on tip-pooling, division director says

The Alaska Department of Labor’s coming changes to tip pooling aren’t universal, the department cautioned Tuesday.

Last week, the department announced a regulatory move that would prohibit some kinds of mandatory tip pooling.

In an interview Tuesday, labor standards and safety division director Deborah Kelly said employers may still require “front of house” staff such as waiters and servers to share tips, but they cannot require those staff to share tips with “back of house” staff including cooks and dishwashers.

A broader ban on mandatory tip pooling was not possible.

“That was a bridge farther than we could go at this time,” Kelly said.

Voluntary tip-pooling between front staff and back staff is still allowed.

The regulation change becomes effective Friday.

In December, the Trump administration announced that it was directing the U.S. Department of Labor to revoke restrictions that prevented employers from confiscating employees’ tips for business expenses.

In January, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced a regulations project to restore those protections at a state level.

While that process was underway, Kelly said, Congress included a reversal of the Trump administration’s actions in an appropriations bill.

That eliminated some of the need for state protections, but the regulations project continued to cover part of the regulatory reversal that Congressional action did not touch.

In a related matter, Kelly said consumers should be aware that enforced gratuities, such as those assessed by restaurants on large groups of people eating together, are not considered tips under the law.

“They’re more like a service fee,” she said.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


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