Server wins compensation after being fired for refusing to share tips

In Quebec, restaurants can't claw back tips from servers to share with kitchen staff unless the workers come to an agreement among themselves. One Montreal restaurant was asking servers to turn over 30 per cent of tips to head office. When one server refused, she was fired.

Montreal restaurant tried to force server to give 30 per cent of tips to head office

The restaurant The Captain's Boil (know in Quebec as Le Festin du Capitaine) tried to force servers to turn over 30 per cent of their tips, which is illegal under Quebec's labour code. (The Captain's Boil/Facebook)

Quebec's Administrative Labour Tribunal has ordered a Montreal restaurant to compensate a server who was fired after she refused to turn over a portion of her tips to the chain's head office.

Annabelle Trudel was fired from her job as a server at Le Festin du Capitaine (known in the rest of Canada as The Captain's Boil) in August 2017.

A couple of days before she was fired, Trudel refused to sign a form requiring all servers to share 30 per cent of their tips with the restaurant's head office, based in Toronto.

The restaurant claimed Trudel was fired for disloyalty after she posted about the requirement on Facebook a week before she was fired.

In a decision released last week, the tribunal rejected the restaurant's argument.

"This claim is unfounded. The connection between the firing and the refusal to sign the form is obvious," Judge Mylène Adler wrote in her decision.

Server told tips would help restaurant 'get started'

Trudel was hired about a year before she was fired. After she started working, her manager asked her to sign what he called a standard contract.

The contract included a clause that stipulated tips would be pooled each day, with 30 per cent "distributed to the HQ."

Trudel testified that her manager initially told her the 30 per cent would be used to help the restaurant — which had just opened — get started.

She said he later changed his story to say the tips would be shared with kitchen staff, insisting that all the workers were "like family."

She continued to refuse to sign the contract, and eventually she complained about it to Quebec's Workplace Health and Safety Board, the CNESST, which investigated.

Restaurant violated Quebec's labour laws

Quebec's Labour Code is clear that employers can't oblige workers to share their tips.

Restaurants may have tip-sharing agreements, but it's up to employees to draft them and consent to them on their own.

"The employer cannot impose such an arrangement on his establishment's employees, or intervene in the establishment of a tip-sharing arrangement," the labour code stipulates.

This is different from the rules in Ontario, where The Captain's Boil head office is located. There, employers can impose tip pools on servers.

Neither province, however, allows restaurants to use portions of tips collected from servers for the direct operating costs of the business.

Tribunal orders restaurant to compensate server

Trudel testified that she would be willing to share some of her tips with kitchen staff, but she felt 30 per cent was too much, and that the restaurant clearly wasn't following the rules.

A week before she was fired, Trudel posted on a Montreal Facebook group made up of bar and restaurant employees about what her employer was doing, asking people what they thought.

The restaurant argued she was fired because of this post and not because of her refusal to turn over her tips.

The tribunal didn't buy it.

It ordered the restaurant to restore Trudel to her position. But that likely won't happen, since the restaurant's Montreal location has since closed.

The tribunal also ordered the restaurant to compensate Trudel for the wages and benefits she lost since she was fired.

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.


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