A judge ruled in favor of a former Surly Brewing Co. employee who alleged that the company’s tip distribution policy was unfair to him and other servers at its giant Minneapolis restaurant.
In a summary judgment made last week, a Hennepin County District Court judge determined that Surly’s involvement in an employee tip pool violated the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act.
The suit was filed in 2016 by former Surly bartender James Russell Conlon.
Minnesota law allows employees to organize their own tip pools, but employers are not allowed to enforce one. The court found that, for a period of time, Surly required tip pooling and controlled how it operated.
“The court found their participating went far beyond what was allowed in the state statute,” said Steven Andrew Smith, an attorney at Nichols Kaster in Minneapolis who represented Conlon.
The case will go before a jury, which will determine the dollar amount for damages.
“Surly believes that it has fully complied with all state and federal laws regarding the administrative distribution of tips received by employees under Minnesota’s tip-pooling statute,” the company said in a statement. “We note that there is no claim that Surly withheld any tips from its employees, and in fact, it has not. Surly is working with its legal counsel to resolve this matter quickly and in a manner that is fair to Surly’s employees.”
Smith said Surly’s high profile means that attention will be drawn to tip-pooling practices at restaurants around the Twin Cities. “Other people in the service industry, who didn’t know it was illegal, see this and so then they can question where they work and get that practice in compliance,” he said.