PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A server at a north Phoenix restaurant says she was fired after speaking out against a new tipping policy.

Brianna Horn says she's worked at Tap House Kitchen near Shea Boulevard and 32nd Street ever since the owners opened the location around a year and a half ago. But Wednesday, they called a meeting with the staff to announce a new tipping policy. Horn provided Arizona's Family with a handout given to Tap House Kitchen staff at the meeting, which detailed the new tipping policy as the restaurant reopened the dining room to customers. According to the handout, servers, bussers and bartenders wouldn't be able to keep the tips they got from customers.

restaurant whistleblower

According to a handout, Tap House Kitchen staff wouldn't be able to keep the tips they got from customers.

"They're literally what we survive on. Like, we get a paycheck every two weeks that is so much below minimum wage, like it doesn't even cover a bill," Horn said.

Instead, staff would be paid the average of their tips that they earned prior to the restaurant shutting down due to COVID-19, and it would be on their paychecks. Several employees who worked at Tap House Kitchen told Arizona's Family that the policy had already been going on for staff who'd been operating curbside pickup service during the pandemic.

The owners of Tap House Kitchen say that none of the tips were being kept by management.

Horn says she thought the policy was unfair because many customers have been trying to give waitstaff larger-than-normal tips because of all the financial hardships caused by the coronavirus.

restaurant whistleblower

Horn says she got a text from co-owner Nic Ferrantello telling her that she'd been fired.

"There have been people that have come through the drive-through and literally tried to shove $50 bills in our hands, $100 bills in our hands," Horn said.

Horn says hours after she spoke up against the policy in the meeting she got a text from co-owner Nic Ferrantello telling her that she'd been fired.

Arizona's Family reached out to Ferrantello on the phone, who said he couldn't comment. Arizona's Family also emailed him with questions, which didn't get a response.

The day after Arizona's Family aired the story, Tap House Kitchen issued a statement: 

This direction was based on the thought that this was the fairest way to distribute tips to all tipped employees -- from the person taking the order to the person packaging the food to the one person delivering the food to the customer. We are doing so directly through employee paychecks. We averaged employee historical tips, and added it directly to their paychecks.  To be clear, tipped employees are receiving paychecks that include tips equal to what they were receiving pre-pandemic regardless of the dramatic downturn in business. It was never our intention to 'keep' tips; they were merely paid another way. Staff was informed that this temporary change in policy would only be for the next 4 weeks.

restaurant whistleblower

"(Tips are) literally what we survive on. Like, we get a paycheck every two weeks that is so much below minimum wage, like it doesn't even cover a bill," Horn said.

Horn is the mother of a 2-year-old and has another baby on the way. She says she's worried that she now won't be able to find work, and might have to move her family in with her parents.

"I'm just upset that people could actually do this to people and think that like, this is OK, you know? Because it's not OK," Horn said.

Two now-former employees confirmed to Arizona's Family that they had quit their jobs at Tap House Kitchen in the wake of Wednesday's meeting, saying that several others had also done the same.

 

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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