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As restaurants across the country debate whether to oust tipping, things are getting a little more complicated for restaurateurs in several U.S. states. Earlier this week, California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous 2011 ruling that bans restaurants from making servers and bartenders share their tips with back of the house employees, reports the LA Times. Such tip-pooling practices are sometimes used to even out the disparity of pay between the front of house staff, who typically earn much higher wages due to tips, and cooks and dishwashers, who only take home a flat hourly rate. The Times notes that this probably won’t have a huge impact on the current state of things in California, as most of the state’s restaurants do not participate in this practice since it’s “a legal gray area.” But the ruling also applies to six other states where service employees earn the full state minimum, as opposed to the lower tipped minimum, in addition to gratuities — namely Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. (The lack of a separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers in those states can further increase the disparity between front of the house and back of the house pay.)

The ruling was spurred by lawsuits from workers in several states, including dealers at Las Vegas’s Wynn casino who said management “was taking their tips to share with other workers.” But the service industry isn’t taking this one lying down: According to Nation’s Restaurant News, some industry groups such as the Washington Restaurant Association are planning to appeal the court’s decision, while warning its members that they may “face some legal risk if they did not change the tip pool policies” currently in place. The situation adds fuel to the current debate that’s raging over how businesses should pay their employees in the face of rising minimum wages and healthcare costs. – Source: Eater/Vox Media

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