A former server at Gusano’s Chicago-style Pizzeria filed a collective action lawsuit against the pizza restaurant chain, which has a location in Joplin, Missouri, near Missouri Southern State University. The former employee claimed that, as a condition of her employment, she was forced to become part of an illegal tip-pooling agreement with certain kitchen staff.

Her attorney contends these allegations are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). He stated that waitresses must contribute a portion of their tips into a common pool which is then divided among kitchen staff, such as cooks.

The employee filing suit was formerly employed at the Conway, Arkansas, location. But the agreement she signed to pool her tips had the location of Joplin, Missouri, on it. The Joplin portion of the agreement was crossed out and “Conway” was handwritten above it, providing evidence that the Missouri location as well as others around the country were using this as standard operating procedure and condition of employment.

The FLSA allows employers to take a tip credit toward their minimum wage obligation for tipped employees equaling the difference between the minimum cash wage of $2.13 and the federal minimum wage, according to the United States Department of Labor. However, when wait staff are forced to contribute a portion of their earnings with employees who do not regularly receive tips, employers are actually reducing their labor costs and are thus ineligible for the tip credit, making the arrangement illegal.

The pizza chain refused to comment on the ongoing legal matter.

If you feel that your employer has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act or is otherwise engaging in shady business practices that affect your hourly pay, benefits, working conditions or employee rights, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step should be to consult with an attorney who is familiar with Missouri employment laws. He or she can review the circumstances surrounding your case, advise you of your rights and help you decide whether or not to proceed with legal action.

Source: thechartonline.com, “Alleged tip-pooling results in lawsuit” Jesse O. Walls, Jan. 24, 2014