Can a restaurant holdservers responsible for unpaid checks when customers leave without paying?

UPDATED: Jan 29, 2012

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Jan 29, 2012Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Can a restaurant holdservers responsible for unpaid checks when customers leave without paying?

My wife is an employee at a restaurant chain. She is very good at her job and makes very little mistakes During her shift, a table accumulated a bill in the range of $120and left without paying. Her manager then told her she is responsible to cover the full price of the check.

Asked on January 29, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A restaurant could potentially do this in two different ways:

1) If the restaurant makes this a term or condition of employment, that any time there is an unpaid check, the server must make it up, they can do this without proving any fault or wrongdoing on the part of the server. They must simply announce that it is a term of employment, and can do it going forward from the announcement. Anyone who does not want to work under those terms would have to seek other employment.

2) Even without making it a term or condition of employment, if the employee caused the loss (i.e. the non-collection of the check) either by negligence (unreasonable carelessness) or intentionally (e.g. let friends skip out), the restaurant could hold the employee liable.

Even if the employee is liable, the restaurant cannot take the money out of his or her paycheck without employee agreement or consent; they could, however, fire an employee who costs them money, and they could also sue the employee (including in small claims court) for the loss.

If your wife knows who this party was, she could  potentially sue them for any losses or costs she incurs, again, including in small claims court.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption