Tip policy gets Applebee’s restaurant chain in trouble

Under federal law, workers can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour as long as they’re earning enough in tips to make up the difference between that amount and the federal minimum wage.

However, if employees spend more than 20 percent of their time performing non-tipped duties, they’re supposed to be paid the full minimum wage for that time.

Recently, the Applebee’s restaurant chain was sued by more than 5,000 current and former servers and bartenders, who claimed they were required to spend more than 20 percent of their time doing cleaning and maintenance, for which they received no tips.  

A federal appeals court in St. Louis allowed the lawsuit to go forward, which means Applebee’s could have to pay back wages to the employees as well as government fines.