HOUSTON — KHOU 11 News viewer Mandy Hite wanted to know if restaurant or bar employers can hold a server or bartender financially responsible for tabs people walk out on.

Although she’s not in the service industry any longer, she says the subject has always been a gray area.

Our Verify team talked to legal expert Gerald Treece to get to the bottom of the dine-and-dash debate. He said people must understand two things to answer Hite’s question.

First, Texas is an employment-at-will state. That means employees without a written contract may be fired for no cause. So if you’re a server who refuses to pay a walked-out tab, you may be fired legally.

Second, sometimes employees are required to sign a terms of employment agreement. If you’re in the service industry, Treece said check your employment paperwork to see if the restaurant or bar included a clause making you responsible for dine-and-dash tabs. If you signed the agreement, you’re liable.

Treece said Hite’s question is hard to answer because the law isn’t crystal clear in Texas. In states like California, there are labor codes that ensure employees aren’t held responsible, but Texas doesn’t have the same employee protection. In fact, there are no laws stopping service industry employers from holding their employees responsible for dine-and-dash tabs. 

KHOU 11 News can verify Texas does not have laws prohibiting businesses from holding servers or bartenders financially responsible for tabs people walk-out on.