Applaud Supreme Court for Upholding Workers’ Rights to Claim Withheld Tips

Hotel Beach View

Target: Mark E. Recktenwald, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice

Goal: Applaud high court for allowing service workers to continue with lawsuit to receive tips withheld from them by their employers

In recent years, multiple lawsuits had been filed against Hawaii hotels regarding the practice of withholding service workers’ tip money (in the form of an automatic service charge), allowing them to receive only a percentage of what they had earned. These lawsuits could potentially impact thousands of current and former service workers, and had been stalled, but according to a recent ruling of the Hawaii Supreme Court, are now able to proceed.

Many hotels in Hawaii automatically designate “service charges” or “gratuity” to bills for guests. Often, when guests pay this additional charge, they see it as a replacement for the traditional tip, and assume this entire extra fee will be paid to the worker who earned it. However, unbeknownst to guests Hawaii hotels retain on average one-fifth to one-sixth of all service charges, and this portion is never seen by the service worker. This practice, while legal in the past, has not been legal since 2000. The law passed in 2000 stated that hotels must disclose to where and to whom money collected as a service charge goes. While some hotels have abided by the law, many have not, and the damages sought from each affected hotel could reach well into the millions. The affected hotels have not disputed the amounts owed, and will likely settle the cases fairly.

By allowing these cases to proceed, the Hawaii Supreme Court is supporting service workers and showing hotels that they must abide by the law. These cases also have implications for other companies, as the law applies to all businesses within the food and beverage industry. By signing the petition below, you will applaud the Hawaii Supreme Court for upholding service workers’ rights to fair labor.


Dear Chief Justice Recktenwald,

Allowing current and former service workers to proceed with their lawsuits against Hawaii hotels regarding retained service charges sets an example for other states to follow. Service workers deserve fair labor, and when the hotels retained portions of the service charges without disclosing this to guests, they were not only misleading guests, but cheating their employees out of rightfully earned tip money.

Most guests assume the entire service charge will be paid to the worker who helped them, and this is why the law passed in 2000 to eliminate this deception was so important. The lack of attention hotels paid this law is unacceptable, and by allowing these lawsuits to be pursued, the high court shows that it is a serious matter, and should never be taken lightly again. Furthermore, the actions taken by the high court set a precedent, illustrating that all parties affected by the law, including the food and beverage industry, must oblige.

We applaud you and the Hawaii Supreme Court for upholding the law and allowing service workers to pursue what is owed to them.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Alicia0928 via

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51 Signatures

  • Hermann Kastner
  • James Thrailkill
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Mal Gaff
  • Nancy Petersen
  • Holly Hall
  • Marianne Oelman
  • Melanie waleski
  • Ricki Newman
  • Frédérique Pommarat
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