Feds Recover Wages for Nearly 300 Texas Restaurant Workers

A popular barbecue restaurant improperly shared servers' tips with managers.

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AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $230,353 in back wages for 274 workers employed by a popular central Texas barbecue restaurant operator after an investigation found the employer gave a portion of employee tips to restaurant managers – a practice not allowed by federal law.

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Black’s Barbecue Inc.; Kent Black’s Lockhart Barbecue Inc. and New Braunfels Barbecue LLC – all with the same ownership and operating as Black’s Barbecue restaurant – kept a portion of the employees’ tips and shared them with managers illegally. The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers, managers and supervisors from keeping tips the business’ employees receive for any purposes, whether or not the employer takes a tip credit.

“Food service industry employers must know that tips are the property of tipped employees who earn them, plain and simple,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicole Sellers in Austin, Texas. “Workers and their families depend on their rightfully earned wages and benefits. If you take from them, you take from their families. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to safeguarding the rights of all essential food service workers.”

Black’s Barbecue Inc. and Kent Black’s Lockhart Barbecue Inc. has operated for three generations in Texas. In addition to Lockhart, the employer has locations in Austin, New Braunfels and San Marcos.

In fiscal year 2021, the division identified nearly $35 million in back wages owed to more than 29,000 food service industry workers. In its food service investigations, the division commonly finds violations related to employers retaining tips, failing to pay overtime when required and not paying for pre- and post-shift work.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in food preparation and service occupations will grow 20 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations, and gain about 2.3 million jobs. These occupations are among the nation’s lowest paid groups. Employers who ensure their workers are paid their rightful wages and benefits will be best positioned to retain and recruit skilled workers.

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