Wigle Whiskey ordered to pay employees back nearly $39K for making them share tips with managers

PITTSBURGH — The owners of Wigle Whiskey were ordered to repay almost $39,000 to 41 employees after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The investigation showed that servers had to share their tips with management, violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Federal law prohibits employers from allowing managers or supervisors to keep any portion of employees’ tips, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employees were also paid overtime based on a wage of $4 per hour instead of the federal minimum wage of $7.25, as the law requires.

A spokesperson with the Department of Labor told our partners at the Trib that Wigle complied and repaid the workers $38,951.

The investigation also showed the distillery also underpaid managers for overtime hours worked.

“Food service workers rely on their hard-earned tips to make ends meet. Restaurant employers must understand that keeping workers’ tips or diverting a portion of these tips to managers or supervisors in a tip pool is illegal,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont in Pittsburgh. “As restaurants struggle to fill the positions they need to keep their doors open, those who deny workers their rightful wages are likely to find it more difficult to retain and recruit workers than those employers who abide by the law.”

The business spoke out on Facebook, apologizing for the way they treated their employees and explained some different ways that they plan to improve.

“Some of you may have seen coverage on the Department of Labor and Wigle. We want to first apologize for any disappointment we’ve caused. We are proud of the compensation and benefits we offer our team. However, we know this action and the surrounding reports reflect poorly on us. In January, immediately after the DOL informed us that our tipping policy was not in line with their new December 2021 rule, we changed it. The DOL affirmed in their final accounting that our actions were not ill-intended. For those that are interested, we’d also like to offer a few more details and nuances about what the DOL took issue with. Our error was to include an hourly, non-exempt floor manager at the Distillery in the tip pool. This team member worked 90% of his hours in direct service to customers throughout the pandemic. We erroneously thought that the nature of his work and his contributions to the tip pool entitled him to share in the tips. We now understand that this is not in accordance with the DOL’s December 2021 rule and we have adapted our policies. To be clear, no tips went to senior management or exempt employees, who were not involved in direct service. There is also a mention in the reports of overtime base rates at $4 rather than $7.25 for tipped employees. We have addressed this issue in our payroll software in January and team members have been compensated accordingly. Again, we sincerely apologize to you. We will work to do better every day,” said the company.