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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Applebee's wage and hour appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Applebee's wage and hour appeal last week. The case involves the payment of minimum wage to bartenders and servers for duties like cleaning and preparation that are not immediately a part of the workers tip producing responsibilities.

Over 5,500 bartenders and servers filed a wage and hour lawsuit against Applebee's challenging the restaurant's non-payment of minimum wage for cleaning and preparation duties. The cleaning and preparation duties do not produce tips and as such the employees argued they should have been compensated by having been paid a full minimum wage for the duties. Applebee's believed otherwise and argued it could pay the bartenders and servers below minimum wage because the duties were a part of their overall tip-producing responsibilities. Full federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

A lower federal court where the case was initially heard looked to the guidance of a Labor Department handbook. The handbook said tipped workers are entitled to full minimum wage if workers spend more than 20 percent of their time on non-tip producing responsibilities. The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. The implication is that the Court let the lower ruling stand.

Lawyers for Applebee's argued the Labor Department's handbook was in contradiction to with the Labor Department's regulations and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Applebee's argued that the handbook's guideline would impose harsh administrative duties on restaurants.

It looks like bartenders and servers who missed out on their pay may be seeing the correct compensation after all.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Court rejects Applebee's appeal in pay suit," Brent Kendall, Jan. 17, 2012

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