Supreme Court rules servers cannot sue employer over tips

TPC Southwind (Source: WMC Action News 5)
TPC Southwind (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South server reached her tipping point, filing a lawsuit in 2014 to determine if servers can sue their employer when they believe tips are being unfairly split.

Before a judge could even decide if a Memphis golf course was unfairly distributing the tip pool, it took Tennessee's top judge to decide if the lawsuit was valid.

Before Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby published her opinion on Thursday, where she stated employees in the food service industry cannot sue their employer for wrongfully distributing tips to non-tipped employees, the case bounced around for three years with differing opinions.

Kim Hardy, a waitress at the Tournament Players Club at Southwind, filed a lawsuit against the golf course in 2014.

Hardy claimed some of her server tips were kept by management and given to staff from the kitchen.

"In our opinion, that violates the very language of the tip statute," Bruce Kramer, Hardy's Attorney, said.

Initially, a Memphis trial court dismissed Hardy's claim. In 2015, a state appeals court reversed the trial court's decision. Supreme Court Justice Kirby then reversed the appeals court decision, saying under the current law even if the company broke the law, the employee could not sue them.

This is due to a 2013 Tennessee law which says any issue in regard to tipping discrepancies must be dealt with through Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

We reached out to TPC Southwind who said they stand by the justices' decision.

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