New York City's AI chatbot advises businesses to steal tips from workers

In October, New York City set up a chatbot that uses the wondrous, labor-saving power of Artificial Intelligence to provide information to business owners in the city.

But the Microsoft-powered bot is often providing false information to New York business owners, telling them to break the law. Link to Colin Lecher's article in The Markup is here.

When the chatbot was asked "Can I take a cut of my worker's tips?" the chatbot's answer was an authoritative Yes.

"Yes, you can take a cut of your worker's tips. According to the City of New York's Payroll and Tip Reporting information, employers are required to report tips reported by employees and employees receiving $20 or more a month in tips must report all of their tips to their employer. Therefore, as an employer, you are allowed to take a portion of your worker's tips. 

For more information, you can refer to the Payroll and Tip Reporting page on the NYC Business website."

But this is false. And the link provided does not deal with the question of whether employers can take a cut of their workers' tips.

In fact, Section 196-d of the Labor Law and the New York State Minimum Wage Orders prohibits employers "from demanding or accepting, directly or indirectly, any tip left for a [private sector] employee, or retaining any part of a charge purported to be a tip."

The article in The Markup lists many other examples of questions to the chatbot for which it provided false information that would be against the law if acted upon, including rules about a landlord's ability to reject prospective tenants based on the source of their income, such as vouchers, subsidies, or other public assistance.