Tip laws face changes
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 14, 2013
You like the service, you tip your waitress. It’s simple.
But not when the government is involved. Unknown to most people, there are laws about tipping. And they could change.
Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, filed two bills last week that could alter the way businesses handle tips for their workers.
House Bill 111 would ensure that all tips are exempt from sales tax. State law now requires restaurants to charge sales tax on tips that are automatically added to a bill, most often for large groups, Petroff said.
The bill would exclude all gratuities from taxation, regardless of whether they are voluntarily offered or added to a diner’s bill.
Petroff also filed a bill that would allow businesses to decide how tips can be pooled and distributed among employees.
Existing state law says tips are the sole property of the employee who receives them. It says gratuities are “not payable in whole or in part to the employer or any other person.”
House Bill 112 would add a line saying that state law doesn’t preclude an employer from creating policies about tips. Petroff’s proposal would apply to food service workers who directly serve customers. It wouldn’t affect workers who don’t serve customers, such as kitchen staff.
The legislation prohibits forcing workers to contribute more than 15 percent of their gratuities to a tip pool. Only tips that are in excess of minimum wage would be eligible for the tip pool.
In industries such as dude ranches or travel guides, employees would be allowed to specify which employers fall under the tip-pooling policies.
Petroff also filed a bill this week that could give restaurants more options on how they serve alcohol.
House Bill 123 would allow restaurants to apply for a second dispensing room for an additional fee. Under the legislation, a large restaurant could install a second dispensing room so servers wouldn’t have to walk as far to serve alcohol, Petroff said.
Snake River Brewery and Restaurant is one example that would benefit from the legislation. The brewpub applied to the town of Jackson last year for a bar and grill liquor license.
“Currently, if one of the 125 upstairs customers orders a glass of wine, our upstairs employee must walk a minimum of 92 steps,” brewpub staffers said in a letter to town officials.