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Hawaii Investigates Legality of Restaurant Healthcare Surcharges

Restaurants could face penalties of $500 to $10,000.

Restaurants in Hawaii may not be allowed to add a healthcare surcharge to customers' receipts. According to KHON 2, a local restaurateur raised some eyebrows when he added a three percent surcharge to diners' checks to "help pay for his workers healthcare plans." The owner tells the news station that the fee was displayed on both the menu and the receipt.

However, Stephen Levins — the executive director of the state's office of Consumer Protection — says adding a fee may be illegal. Levins notes that "it really depends on the circumstances and we just have to take a look," adding, "if they are advertising a fee that doesn't exist, a phantom fee it may not be allowable. If it's a legitimate fee it may be." Essentially, if a customer knows what they are paying for and the "fee is going to exactly what it is stated" then it should be allowed. However, if the restaurant is lying about their intentions, they could face penalties of $500 to $10,000 per violation.

The restaurant industry is notorious for not offering workers benefits like health insurance. To combat this, a growing number of restaurants are adding surcharges to receipts to help cover insurance for its employees. In September, restaurateur Suzanne Goin announced that her Los Angeles restaurants Lucques, A.O.C, Tavern, and the Larder would add a three percent surcharge to each check specifically for healthcare. Fellow LA restaurant Republique added a similar surcharge last year, as did a chainlet in Florida. Check out the local news story below:

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