Workers who earn tips could soon be forced to give them up. And employers could decide to keep those tips for themselves.
It's all part of a plan the Department of Labor said could help close a wage gap between tipped and non-tipped workers.
The plan could mean millions of tip-earning workers across the country might be reduced to making minimum wage.
Some critics, like restaurant server Amy Geisler, call the idea nothing short of theft.
“I take home cash every day and that's what I rely on,” said Geisler. “My income is based on my performance at work.”
Geisler is no stranger to sharing her tips with a particularly helpful bartender or even a cook. But, if the Department of Labor has its way, workers like her may have no other choice than to share their tips.
“If that happened I honestly don't know how I would make any money,” said Geisler.
The plan would give employers the option to collect tips and divide them up among workers, or even keep the tips as long as everyone is still being paid at least minimum wage.
The Department of Labor says the idea could give a bump in pay to employees like cooks, who contribute to the service experience, but sometimes make less than their tipped colleagues.
“It wouldn't be terrible if we were thrown a few bucks a night,” said assistant kitchen manager Dakota Arnold. He sees the upside for his crew but thinks ultimately, the idea isn't fair.
“That's their living. So, you know, you don't want to take that away from them when they're trying to pay bills just like everyone else,” said Arnold.
Diner Scott Endicott feels the same.
“The person who brings you the beer or your food is the one, you're tipping them.”
Restaurant owner Don Wilburn thinks the idea could do more harm than good.
“I think you would see a decrease in service, because some people wouldn’t work as hard knowing they’d still make money off the backs of those who were working hard,” said Wilburn. “I think you’d also see a lot of dissension among the employees.”
Wilburn said even if it's made legal, the Department of Labor's tip-sharing plan won't be used in his restaurants. That's good news for Amy Geisler.
“Otherwise I wouldn't wait tables anymore,” she said.
A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows the plan could take as much as $13 billion away from tipped workers each year.
A public comment period on the plan ended February fifth. A department spokesman told Five on Your Side the department will take all the comments into consideration before taking any further steps.