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Texas restaurant receives backlash over ‘tips are a privilege’ policy for employees

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ courted controversy for telling employees it can withhold tips for a variety of reasons.
/ Source: TODAY

A restaurant in Texas is raising some eyebrows for its tipping policy for employees.

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, located in the town of Buda, near Austin, drew backlash when a now-viral tweet sharing the eatery’s policy for how workers would lose tips began circulating.

The tweet featured a screenshot of a document that included the restaurant’s explanation for the circumstances under which a worker would forfeit tips, headlined by a reminder that says, “TIPS ARE A PRIVILEGE! THEY MUST BE EARNED.”

Some of the reasons for losing out on tips include being late, being written up during a shift, skipping work without alerting anyone, getting fired and quitting without two weeks written notice. The document also specified that all tips “are pooled equally between the employees.”

“That was a screenshot of our handbook that we wrote in 2013 with the policy going in place in 2015 or 2016,” restaurant owner Miguel Vidal told NBC affiliate KXAN.

Vidal added the eatery did not regularly impose the rule, noting it was often a final drastic step for employees.

“They got three verbal warnings and a write-up before anything was even discussed,” Vidal said.

On July 19, owners Modesty and Miguel Vidal shared on Facebook their modified tip pool policy, which no longer lists anything that prevents an employee from getting tips.

“All employees are paid a minimum of $8+ tips when hired and training is complete,” they captioned their post. “This post includes our *UPDATED* tip policy. We can only continue to learn, adapt, and try do better as we grow.”

An image of the new guidelines, with an area for an employee and manager to sign, highlighted some key parts.

“All employees are hired at a starting rate that is above the legal minimum wage. We use tip pooling at Valentina’s,” they wrote. “This means that even though everyone is paid minimum wage and above, that all tips will be pooled each day and split evenly among the scheduled staff members.

“**Since all employees are paid more than minimum wage, we have the option to decide to not accept any tips from customers. We strongly believe in an incentive and teamwork based environment. By accepting tips and starting all employees at above minimum wage, this helps every employee to achieve a consistent livable income.

“As a quick service restaurant, our hourly pay rate meets and exceeds minimum wage, therefore tips are appreciated but never expected from our guests.”

The Vidals went on to say that they instated this policy in the first place with the goal of “bridging this gap between back of house and front of house.”

“We strongly believe that when all (departments) of a restaurant are actively working together, that all the staff will make more money,” they wrote.

In the comments section of the post, people blasted the eatery for its rules.

“You're not winning any fans,” one person wrote.

“IF TIPS ARE VOLUNTARY AND NOT TO BE EXPECTED THEN YOU SHOULD PAY A LIVING WAGE,” someone else wrote.

“Just because you pay ABOVE minimum wage doesn’t mean it’s a livable income,” commented yet another.

Vidal said a new policy was long overdue.

“It’s something that should have been paid attention to more,” he told KXAN.