is it legal for the restaurant to ask the server to pay half of an unpaid meal?

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Comments (4)

May in Madison, Wisconsin

50 months ago

Recently had a table leave without paying. Don't think it was intentional, but this sometimes happens, at all restaurants. Is it legal for the restaurant to require me as the server to pay for half of the unpaid cost of that meal? This is coming out of tip money that I had received from other tables. I don't feel I should be responsible for paying for my patron's meal if they forgot or intentionally did not pay. What do you think?

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Jessi in Tempe, Arizona

50 months ago

It's pretty standard actually. I had a friend who's table just got up and left without paying...their bill was $300. She had to pay for all of it (over the course of 3 shifts). It was either that or she could quit.

In this case the table was also ordering quite a few drinks and the manager told her she should have started their tab and held their credit card.

Tricky situation.

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get real in Westborough, Massachusetts

50 months ago

get real and contact an attorney. never ever allow yourself to be walked on like that.

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May in Madison, Wisconsin

50 months ago

Jessi in Tempe, Arizona said: It's pretty standard actually. I had a friend who's table just got up and left without paying...their bill was $300. She had to pay for all of it (over the course of 3 shifts). It was either that or she could quit.

In this case the table was also ordering quite a few drinks and the manager told her she should have started their tab and held their credit card.

Tricky situation.

Yeah, from what I heard from other servers, it seems like there's an overall consensus that this happens regularly to servers where they must foot the bill, and in some extreme cases, quit as the alternative. Usually, they say it's because the management is terrible.

Mine isn't terrible - in most situations, they've been fair and considerate, but they're also new owners. I did some research and found that it is illegal everywhere, according to U.S. Labor Department, for servers to foot the bill, even though the practice is common. So what you'll find is most big chains that need to follow all the rules pretty strictly will NOT have servers footing the bill, while smaller restaurants can put that responsibility on their servers because they don't tend to suffer any consequences, or they or their servers don't know the laws, either.

In my case, I felt I had done all I could before they walked out. It was a split check for a pretty standard meal (no more than $60), where one of the patrons paid with credit. I saw the other one sorting cash at her table, so it was enough confirmation to me that they paid. They left pretty much immediately after the first woman paid with credit, so I couldn't chase them down or anything (again, nor is it my job to).

Anyway, good to know!

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