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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Texas BBQ Chain Ordered to Return Tips to Workers


U.S. Department of Labor | Image by Shutterstock

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A Texas barbecue chain was ordered to pay over $230,000 back to workers after an investigation from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) found that employee tips were shared with the manager.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has ordered Black’s Barbecue to pay $230,252 in back wages to the 274 employees whose tips were illegally shared with the manager, according to a press release from the department.

“Food service industry employers must know that tips are the property of tipped employees who earn them, plain and simple,” Nicole Sellers, Wage and Hour Division district director in Austin, Texas, said in the press release.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), employers, managers, and supervisors are not allowed to keep employees’ tips.

“Workers and their families depend on their rightfully earned wages and benefits. If you take from them, you take from their families,” said Sellers. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to safeguarding the rights of all essential food service workers.”

In response to the DOL press release, the owner of Blacks Barbecue took to social media to address the situation, releasing a video on Facebook called “the full story.”

“We’ve been in business for 90 years, and our goal has always been to follow every rule, every regulation, every procedure out there, and as everybody knows, there’s a bunch of them,” Kent Black, owner of Black’s Barbecue, said in the video.

Black added that it was a “real gut punch” to find out “we missed a rule change that affects how the tips are distributed.”

While Black’s Barbecue took full responsibility for the payroll error and has since repaid the impacted employees for the difference in allocated tips, Black expressed surprise when news broke about the story, suggesting that the issue was resolved a year ago.

In 2021, nearly $35 million was owed in back wages to more than 29,000 employees in the food service industry, according to the WHD. Per the DOL press release, most of these owed back wages come from withheld tips, unpaid overtime, and not paying employees for pre-shift and post-shift work.

Since the situation was resolved, Black’s Barbecue has remained in compliance, according to the BBQ chain. “It’s just an honest mistake, and we’re sorry it happened,” Black claimed at the end of the video.

Black’s Barbecue restaurant operates Black’s Barbecue Inc, Kent Black’s Lockhart Barbecue Inc., and New Braunfels Barbecue LLC.   

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11 days ago

Their excuse is lame. Whether or not they knew of a law forbidding the stealing of employee earned tips, they should have known what is right and what is wrong. When the food servers objected, why did Black’s management wait until a court intervened in the matter to force them to do what they should have done in the first place? I don’t buy their “aw shucks, we didn’t know” story. Glad they had to pay up. It should have included penalties.