D.C.’s Initiative 77 Just Became Even More Relevant

During the D.C. primary election this June, D.C. voters approved Initiative 77 which would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers (restaurant and non-restaurant) to $15/hour by 2026. It was more popular in lower-income and non-white areas, and did not do well ‘west of the park’ or in precincts with lots of restaurants (the latter might be because many restaurants were vehemently opposed to the bill).

One of the pro-77 arguments was that it would prevent wage theft, which affects one in four tipped workers. So this legal development seems relevant (boldface mine):

A restaurant group with locations in the Washington, D.C., area agreed to pay up to $1.49 million to settle claims it didn’t provide sick leave required by a city law and underpaid tipped employees.

There are 962 class members eligible to share in the settlement, according to a motion for court approval the workers’ attorneys filed. The awards range from $25 to over $25,000, they said. Precise amounts depend on whether an eligible class member opts in or out of the settlement and how many weeks the employee worked.

Farmers Restaurant Group didn’t provide its Washington employees with sick leave, despite a 2014 law that added restaurants to the type of business covered by the city’s sick leave ordinance, the workers said. A group of tipped workers in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia said they were paid a lower minimum wage even during periods when they were engaged in non-tipped work at the end of the day, such as resetting tables and polishing silver.

The restaurant group operates Founding Farmers, Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Farmers & Distillers.

A majority of the City Council wants to overturn Initiative 77. Even with the disingenuous arguments being put forth to do so, it just got much harder for them to do so.

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