Restaurant Law Center takes the fight to the courts
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As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, the restaurant industry has a responsibility to fight for policies that will help our industry thrive – including in the courts. Within the federal government, agencies like the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) make purely political decisions that significantly impact restaurants, with little understanding of how the industry works. At the same time, state and local governments are creating a patchwork of policies on the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and shift scheduling, among others. All of this makes it harder for restaurant owners to grow their businesses, create jobs and keep prices affordable.

That is why, this month members of the restaurant industry in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association are launching the Restaurant Law Center (Center) – a new organization that will advocate for restaurant owners, our team members and our customers through the courts. The Center will provide protection and advancement for the industry, including fighting against the government’s regulatory overreach on a local, state, and federal level.


That’s why the first thing the Restaurant Law Center will do is ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case brought by several state restaurant associations and ourselves on behalf of restaurants fighting the Department of Labor’s anti tip-pooling stance that prevents cooks and dishwashers from receiving tips.

On Jan. 19, the Center will file a “petition for writ of certiorari” or “cert petition” on behalf of the National Restaurant Association asking the Court to take up Oregon Restaurant and Lodging, et al v. Thomas PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, et al, which challenges whether the DOL had the right to enforce tip credit restrictions on employers who pay employees the full minimum wage or more and who do not credit any tip income toward minimum wage obligations. 

This petition will be restaurant leaders’ latest effort to fight DOL’s unfair interpretation of tip-pooling rules, following a divided ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Think about it – kitchen staff works just as hard as servers, bartenders, and other restaurant staff in the front of the house. Why should they be denied tips just because government bureaucrats have decided they don’t deserve them? Plus, as any restaurant owner or manager knows, tip-pooling helps build team trust and collaboration. This is an example of why regulations governing an industry should be written in collaboration with people who understand how the industry actually works.

Challenging unfair federal regulations like this one will be just one part of the Center’s mission. We’ll also fight regulations that unfairly target restaurants at the state and local level. Last year, for example, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to push through an extreme minimum wage hike that would only impact a sub-sector of the restaurant industry, but not its competitors. The National Restaurant Association challenged it in court, and the state legislature, after holding hearings on the case, ultimately expanded the increase to include all workers across industries. While the wage hike may still be damaging to restaurants’ ability to thrive in New York, it starts leveling the playing field. The Center will take on similar cases, advocating for policy and precedent to make sure we have the laws and regulations in place to best serve our guests.

With the incoming Trump administration, we are hopeful that federal regulators will have a better understanding of how to work with businesses to create an environment that promotes economic growth and job creation. But it will take years to undo the damage done by DOL and NLRB in recent years, and we can expect labor unions and other activists to challenge any pro-business policies. The Center will be prepared to step up and defend them if they are in the best interest of restaurants and our guests. 

The creation of the Center has been years in the making, and it is arriving not a moment too soon. For restaurant owners, we will stand up on their behalf when they are unfairly targeted by lawmakers. For the 14.4 million restaurant employees across the country, we will fight to protect their jobs. And for our guests, we will protect their choices when it comes to dining out, helping to combat the closures or higher prices that can be a result of overregulation by government bureaucrats. 

Angelo Amador is the Executive Director of the Restaurant Law Center. Amador also currently serves as the senior vice president and regulatory counsel for the National Restaurant Association.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.