Each state has slightly different rules that govern the relationships between employers and employees for a number of issues, including proper payment of wages and financial responsibility of workers. 

Local news for Houston reported on a common issue workers in Texas have with their employers. Many have asked if they are financially responsible for people who walk out of bars and restaurants without paying their bill. The news network spoke with a legal expert and independently verified all of the information that was reported. 

Employers can dictate most of the terms of the employment relationship with little regulation in Texas

The report started by saying that Texas is an “at will” employment state. This means that an employer can technically end someone’s position for any reason at all, provided it is not discriminatory. Many other states around the country have this same kind of employment regulation for all workplaces. The former bartender who was interviewed for the story said that the issue of unpaid tabs always seemed to be a gray area in every establishment where she worked. The local news retained a legal expert to discuss how the law sees these dine and dash incidents. 

Unless there is a work contract between the employer and employee that dictates how this situation needs to be handled between the two parties, the employer can legally force the worker to pay the bill or be fired. There is technically nothing in the laws of an at will employment state that prevent this action, so a server in Texas can be lawfully fired for refusing to pay a customer’s bill. 

Because most employers do require workers to sign some kind of employment documents, it may be beneficial to read over these documents and see if unpaid customer bills or related issues are discussed anywhere in the employment contract or other documentation. Some restaurants and bars do specifically mention this situation in their contracts, and if you’ve already signed the document, you are liable for any unpaid tabs. 

Even though employers can technically make their workers pay a customers unpaid check or deduct the balance from their wages, there has never been a clear cut answer under Texas law. Other states have passed regulations over the years that protect workers who find themselves in these kinds of situations. Texas is yet to do so. However, keep in mind that there is nothing in the state laws that prevents an employer from firing a worker who ends up in this situation, so it may be best to comply with the employer then look into legal action if necessary. 

Get help from a local attorney

There are employment attorneys who can assist you in the Houston area with all kinds of issues related to labor laws, wages, and other regulations. To speak with someone today, contact:

Moore & Associates 

440 Louisiana Street, Suite 675, Houston, TX 77002 



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