A divided Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last week that employers cannot fire workers who refuse to share tips.
Beginning in 2007, Todd Burt worked as a bartender at Bunny's Bar & Grill in St. Louis Park. Sometime before July 2014, he was told that he needed to give more of his tips to table bussers and that there "would be consequences if that did not happen."
Burt refused and was fired. He sued for wrongful termination, citing the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act prohibition of an employer requiring workers to share tips.
Bunny's acknowledged that while that was true, the law did not prohibit businesses from firing workers who refused to share tips.
A district court initially threw out the lawsuit, but the state Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The Minnesota Supreme Court found that Burt should not have been fired.
"In everyday language, threatening to terminate an employee for failing to do something imposes a 'requirement' on the employee and, at the very least, constitutes coercion by the employer," Justice Natalie Hudson wrote in her opinion. "We hold that [the law] unambiguously prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for refusing to share gratuities."
Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Justice Barry Anderson dissented.
"Minnesota has long recognized the common-law rule of employment at will," Gildea wrote in her dissent. "Consistent with this principle, an employer may terminate an employee for any or no reason and cannot be sued for wrongful discharge."