Figuring out the tip next time you dine out may include, along with the usual percentage decision, whether or not to contribute to your wait person's health insurance cost. But restaurants that are asking customers to pay extra to cover employee insurance may find themselves crossways with consumer protection cops.

The restaurant industry has been among the loudest opponents to sections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that require employers to provide coverage for certain employees under certain conditions. The industry has traditionally sought extra help from customers to pay those who bring them their food and drinks. Now, some restaurants are boldly soliciting extra fees from diners that, they claim, will be earmarked for employee health insurance.

That can be a dangerous practice, advised attorney Carolyn D. Richmond in a Law360 article. Richmond said she expects state consumer protection agencies to scrutinize such surcharges

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.