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On June 5, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill, H7566, intended to prevent employers from taking a cut of the tips that customers give to food service and other employees.
When one state representative asked during a hearing on the bill what effect it would have on the tips she gave at her local Dunkin' Donuts or Honey Dew Donuts, the chief sponsor, Rep. Christopher Blazejewski, a Providence Democrat, said that wasn't an issue because most such stores prohibit tips for workers.
"You wouldn't know this, but they don't get that money," Blazejewski said. "That money actually, as a policy at Dunkin’ Donuts, generally speaking most of the stores prohibit tipping. And those that prohibit tipping and (if) the person receives the money . . . it is given to charity. So you'll notice that little box out front when you pay for your coffee, it will be some sort of 503(c) charity. Any money given in excess of your purchase price will be donated to that charity."
The bill, which had been amended at the last minute to exempt "quick service restaurants" such as Dunkin' Donuts, then passed overwhelmingly. It is now before the Senate Labor Committee.
Blazejewski's statement caught us by surprise, especially when, a few days later, we stopped by a Warwick store and noticed that the big tip jar on the counter clearly stated that the money was for employees.
It made us wonder about our visits to Dunkin' Donuts: Is it worth the tip? Was Rep. Blazejewski correct and did the company really prohibit tipping?
We called the headquarters. The company sent us a statement from Jessica Gioglio, public relations and social media manager, saying that there is no overarching policy.
"Dunkin' Donuts restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who are responsible for making the business decisions, including hours of operation, employee wages and tipping policy," the statement said. "Many franchisees allow their employees to accept tips. Other franchisees prefer to offer customers the opportunity to donate their change to charitable causes."
Spokeswoman Kate Barba added, "We don't have a way to determine the number of stores that allow tipping."
When we called Blazejewski, he said he got his information from Chris Hunter of the lobbying/public relations firm Advocacy Solutions, located in Providence.
Hunter, in turn, told us Blazejewski "might have misspoken in saying they don't accept tips."
He sent us a statement from Chris Prazeres, chairman of the Dunkin' Donuts Independent Franchise Owners of Rhode Island Roundtable, saying roughly 70 percent of the approximately 160 stores in Rhode Island accept tips.
Some Dunkin' Donuts owners had been concerned about the legislation, said Hunter, because they didn't want it to interfere with their ability to collect money for charity.
Blazejewski subsequently sent a letter on June 12, 2012, to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, which received his bill after it passed the House, asking him to remove the amendment that exempted Dunkin' Donuts and similar stores. That was the last day of the 2012 session and the bill never made it out of committee.
"We were provided with inaccurate and misleading information by Dunkin' Donuts' affiliates and are deeply troubled by it," he said in a statement to PolitiFact. "I have asked the Senate to remove the floor amendment language and pass the prior version of the bill, which was always intended to prevent consumer fraud as well as protect wait staff and service employees who rely on tips to survive in an extremely difficult economy."
Time to make our ruling
Rep. Christopher Blazejewski told the House that most Dunkin' Donuts workers don't receive tips because the company, as a policy, generally prohibits tipping.
Dunkin' Donuts told us the company has no such policy, and the decision about whether to let workers keep their tips, or give that money to charity, is up to each store owner.
A spokesman for Rhode Island franchise owners said Blazejewski misspoke and that about 70 percent of the stores allow workers to get tips.
Blazejewski said "inaccurate and misleading information" from Rhode Island store owners led him to support the amendment that exempted such stores.
Blazejewski may have gotten inaccurate information, but we base our ruling on the accuracy of the statement, not its source.
We rate his statement False.
(Get updates from PolitiFactRI on Twitter. To comment or offer your ruling, visit us on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page.)
RILIN. state.RI.US, "2012 -- H 7566 Substitute A as Amended, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations," (version passed by the House June 5, 2012) and "2012 -- H 7566 Substitute A, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations," (version submitted to the House June 5, 2012), both accessed June 12, 2012
Interview and e-mail, Rep. Christopher Blazejewski, Democrat, Providence and East Providence, June 11-12, 2012
E-mails, Kate Barba, spokeswoman, Dunkin' Donuts, June 8, 2012
Interview and e-mail, Christopher D. Hunter, Advocacy Solutions LLC, June 11-12, 2012
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