WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — As Election Day nears closer, a new report has people on both sides of ballot initiative 82 sparring.
Ballot initiative 82, or the District of Columbia Tax Credit Elimination Act of 2021, aims to gradually get rid of the tipped credit employers can take against their tipped staff. If it passes, tipped workers would make a base salary of $16.10 an hour, plus tips.
Right now, tipped employees can be paid a minimum of $5.35, plus tips. However, under law, their average hourly pay, including tips, must reach the minimum wage of $16.10. If not, the employer must make up the difference.
Employers are then required to report wages and tips quarterly to the Department of Employment Services to ensure workers are actually making the minimum wage.
It’s one reason why those opposed to Issue 82 say the ballot initiative is not necessary. However, those in support of Issue 82 say there’s no way to tell if tipped employees are actually making minimum wage because restaurant owners are not complying with District law and reporting earnings.
“The restaurant industry is one of the industries that is most pervasive in regard to wage theft,” said Elizabeth Falcon, Executive Director of DC Jobs With Justice.
Wednesday, DC Jobs with Justice put out a new report using data received in a public records request. According to the report, only 11% of restaurant owners consistently submitted wage and tip earnings to DOES in a one-year period. 35% of restaurant owners submitted the information at least once. And 65% did not submit at all.
“When restaurants are saying take it on faith, we know what the law is, we know how to follow it, you can trust us, we don’t see it in the reporting,” said Falcon. “There just isn’t transparency. We actually don’t know what people who are making the tipped minimum are making in DC.”
It’s one reason her organization supports Issue 82.
“All workers deserve to be paid well by their employers,” said Falcon.
Those against Issue 82 said the data is leading to false conclusions.
Sarah Schneider, a spokesperson for the No On Issue 82 campaign, said, “This is a DOES failure, not the restaurant industry’s.”
Schneider said that DOES is supposed to set up a portal for “payroll providers to digitally submit these reports.” However, she said it’s still working to setup the portal.
“There is no mandate for paper filing and third party payroll providers are the ones required to do this, not restaurants themselves,” said said.
And, Andrew Kline, Legislative Counsel for RAMW, said, “The legal obligation to report tipped wages was, by the D.C. city council, put on third-party payroll providers, not restaurants. Suggestions that restaurant operators are somehow in violation of not reporting is downright slanderous.”
DC News Now reached out to DOES for comment and with questions about the status of the portal, but did not hear back.
“I think that that is really skirting the issue,” said Falcon. “The law clearly states reporting needs to happen. 35% of restaurants did report in a year’s time, so there’s a sense and understanding that they are supposed to do this.”