California restaurateurs received a huge victory from the Second District appellate court’s ruling in Budrow v. Dave & Buster’s Of California, Inc. The lawsuit against Dave & Buster’s alleged that its tip pool policy violated California law in that it required employees to tip out bartenders who did not provide "direct table service." The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that an employee had to have “direct table service” in order to validly participate in the tip pool. As previously written, this is the second appellate court decision that reached the same result.
The court first explained that Labor Code section 351 does not impose a “direct table service” requirement on tip pools. The court explained that are two parts of Labor Code section 351 that are relevant to the “direct” and “indirect” table service issue. First, section 351 provides that “No employer or agent shall collect, take, or receive any gratuity or a part thereof that is paid, given to, or left for an employee by a patron.” Second, section 351 also provides that “[e]very gratuity is hereby declared to be the sole property of the employee or employees to whom it was paid, given, or left for.” Based on a plain reading of the Labor Code, the court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that there had to be direct table service for all employees who were a part of the tip pool.
Plaintiffs also argued that the “direct table service” requirement was established by prior case law in Leighton v. Old Heidelberg, Ltd. (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 1062. The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument on four grounds:
- The Old Heidelberg case does not define “direct” as opposed to “indirect” service. The court noted that a bartender pouring a drink at the bar could be considered as providing direct table service. The court also noted that Old Heidelberg relied upon “industry practice” of tipping 15% to busboys and 5% to bartenders. Therefore the court could not agree that Old Heidelberg even defined “direct table service” for use as a requirement in this analysis.
- The “references to direct table service are made in Old Heidelberg without any attempt to fashion a rule that would limit tip pools to servers and busboys.”
- Old Heidelberg did not establish who which employees, if any, are to be excluded from the tip pools.
- Old Heidelberg did not decide which limitations on the types of employees are allowed to participate in tip pools, nor did it set forth “criteria or standards” to establish these limitations.
Therefore, the court held that there was no standard that only employees who provided direct table service are those who could participate in tip pools.
The court explained that “[t]ip pools exist to minimize friction between employees and to enable the employer to manage the potential confusion about gratuities in a way that is fair to the employees.” And the artificial distinction between “indirect” and “direct” table service is of no help.