DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Spitfire Bar and Grill in Detroit Lakes, Minn., was required to pay back employees who were forced into illegal tip-pooling in 2018 and 2019.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry required TBCT Management LLC, owners of Spitfire, to pay an average of $282 to more than 50 employees who were forced to pool their tips into a fund that was distributed to other employees, according to a statement released by the Department of Labor and Industry.

"We want to remind employers that earned tips are the sole property of the direct service employee or an employee who performs direct service for a customer," said Department of Labor and Industry Roslyn Robertson, commissioner. "Under state law, employers cannot require them to share tips with other employees."

When reached by phone, a current Spitfire employee said the managers involved during the forced tip-pooling are no longer with the restaurant.

Minnesota law prohibits employers from requiring employees to share their gratuities with their employer, according to the state agency's statement. The law also prevents employers from requiring tip-able staff to provide tips to "indirect-service" employees, such as dishwashers, cooks and hosts.

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However, tip-pooling is allowed, the agency stated, when employees earning tips decide to share their tips with co-workers, independent of their employer. Employers are not allowed to have any involvement in tip-pooling other than reporting the amount of tips received for tax purposes.