Luke O’Neil reports in Slate on a common practice in the restaurant industry (emphasis mine):
Last month, a New York City waitress who’d just been fired after she refused to cover the $96 tab of a party who walked out without paying posted an angry message on Reddit. Her story earned sympathy from other Redditors and soon went viral, with a hand from Gawker. Many commenters on Gawker and Reddit were outraged by the unfairness of the restaurant’s policy—it doesn’t seem right that a server should be held responsible for a customer’s dishonesty. The truth is this practice is far more common than most people outside of the restaurant industry might realize. Many servers are forced to perform two jobs at once: delivering food and working as a severely undertrained and underpaid security force.
The dine-and-dash is often looked on as a harmless prank, without any serious consequences. Restaurants anticipate the occasional walkout as part of their business plan, right? They should, but instead they often pass the buck to employees—and when you learn that servers can be required to pay for the losses out of their own pockets, it doesn’t seem all that funny. The problem is that there aren’t strong protections against the practice in federal labor laws, and state laws prohibiting wage deductions for loss and theft are too often ignored by employers and unknown by workers. It’s time we prohibit this practice and empower employees to stand up against it when restaurant owners try to dock their pay.
I’ve never worked as a waiter. All of my food industry experience is strictly withing the ‘fast’ category, which of course has it’s own set of unethical wage practices — those I’m all too familiar with. So perhaps I have an excuse for not knowing about this particular practice, but I’m still chiding myself for not knowing before now. It seems anecdotally prevalent, but I’m curious if any of my readers here were aware of this or have experienced it themselves?