'And I had to find out if that was normal or have I been living under a rock, and is this a normal thing or is this weird?' asks Ashley.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2023. It has since been updated.
A woman and her friend were having a nice dinner at their favorite restaurant when they suddenly noticed something strange. One of them, a TikTok user Ashley Nichole, decided to film an item on their restaurant bill. She said that they got the check and were signing off the tip when they noticed a 5% charge for "Employee Health." They were at a restaurant in LA called Osteria La Buca. In the TikTok video, Ashley can be seen pointing to the check and saying, “Here is the receipt, and if you notice down here is a $4.75 for employee health. You see that? A 5% charge for employee health.”
“[My] Immediate thought was, employee health, what does that mean? I was like I’m going to ask," recalls Ashley. She went up to a staff member at the restaurant and asked, "‘Hey, quick question, just curious. I saw that you guys charged us $5 each - both of us - for employee health and I just had to ask what is that?'” The employee told her that it was their healthcare.
Ashley was confused as she had never heard of this before. "And I had to find out if that was normal or have I been living under a rock, and is this a normal thing or is this weird? Because I have never experienced this before, and I feel weird,” she says in the video.
The video gained over 1 million views and is captioned, "Is this normal?" People on TikTok were furious that a customer was charged without being informed what it is. User @tacosandtiaras_ commented, "Restaurants should disclose this before sitting people down to eat." Another user @candaceceleah75 said, "That should be illegal to charge customers for staff health care insurance."
A third person, @myspaceoldie said, "At $5 per customer for a whole month, that’s a very expensive policy," and @notyourgirl concurred, "I’m sorry but I’m not paying for this. Just tax and tip. Health care should be covered by the employer. These fees are getting out of hand." @sophpac123 explained, "I’ve heard of this, but they always ask if you want to or not, and it’s optional in all the places that I have been."
Ashley told Buzzfeed that she first thought that it was a mistake. "This was my first time ever seeing anything like this. Once I asked the hostess to clarify what the charge was, I was simply confused why I was the one paying for the healthcare of my server," she said. She added that looking at the responses on TikTok, she understood that it was not a common charge. "The overwhelming response was that most people hadn't seen anything like it."
BoredPanda reported that this situation highlights the problems with the tipping culture in the US, and it is important to move towards fairer employment contracts, stable wages and healthcare coverage. Moreover, it seems wrong for the customers to have to pay for employees' healthcare costs and it should be the employer's responsibility.