Tip splitting or pooling is common practice, especially in busy bars and breweries. It’s generally legal, but only under certain circumstances. To that, one question we’re often asked is whether it’s okay for taproom managers to also receive a split of the tips. The answer depends on both federal and state law, so it’s best to talk to your in-state lawyer to be sure. However, very generally, it depends on the duties of the individual who would be receiving the tips.
The federal law at play here is the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under it, “employers” may not receive a split from the tip pool. To determine whether someone is an employer, it turns on their regular job duties. If your taproom manager is primarily serving customers, but also doing some other things on the side, such as handling the brewery’s social media presence, booking events, and scheduling staff, then this person really isn’t acting like an “employer” as the law contemplates. Splitting tips is okay from a federal perspective. However, if a manager is mostly in the back room working as an instrument of the owner, but comes out from time to time to help cover the bar during a busy hour, then this person more than likely can’t take a split of the tips. Also, it goes without saying, but the owner of a brewery is most definitely an “employer” under federal law, and is not the kind of person who can share in the staff’s tip pool.
For more information on wage laws, and to make sure your brewery is in compliance, contact your attorney. You can also find helpful information about how FLSA works here.