Restaurateur reaches the tipping point...
Interesting story from AP wire. In question is the legal status of gratuities required of "large" groups, in this case an 18% tip that the restaurant expects of parties larger than 5.
A party of nine attempted to leave a 10% tip, and the ringleader was subsequently arrested for theft of service. Apparently, this issue (whether required tips are enforceable debt) has not been litigated before in New York.
It seems to me that since laws generally treat tips as a part of wages (the federal minimum wage for employees receiving tips is $2.13, well below the $5.15 set for other covered, non-exempt employees) then restaurants are well within their rights to set a price for certain services payable directly to the employee as part of their wage. The question, as the article makes clear, is whether the customers received sufficient notice of that price. If not, it would be similar to being charged a "surprise" fee for the glasses of water brought to your table.
We'll see how this works out, but for the time being, tip your waitresses, I'll be here all week.
UPDATE: The link above now reflects the resolution of the case. No charge against the delinquent tipper; the DA's office contends that if the restaurant wants to mandate a fee for the server, it must be called a "service charge." I mildly disagree with this conclusion, as tip income is treated by federal and much state law relating to the employees as wage income, so to treat it differently with regard to patrons is inconsistent, but the association of tips with "gratuity," discretionary payments intended to reflect satisfaction with the service, does present a widely held assumption that tips are voluntary. Thus, the adequate notice requirement is reasonably questionable.