About 34% of workers in the restaurant sector quit their jobs or want to do so. Even though this is an excellent way to get experience and make money, working at a restaurant is no walk in the park. The work environment is quite stressful, and the wages aren’t the best.
To make sure you’re being treated properly and lawfully, it’s crucial to be aware of the privileges you have as a restaurant employee. Some restaurants take part in unlawful behavior that infringes on the rights of employees to make more money.
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the common illegal activities restaurants do to employees. We’ll then discuss what the law says about employee rights in the restaurant industry and what you can do about it. Read on to learn more.
Understanding Wages and Time Regulations at a Restaurant
Wage and hour rules are one of the most significant aspects of worker rights in the restaurant sector. These regulations specify the amount that must be paid to an employee for their labor as well as the guidelines for overtime and rest periods.
Although certain states have greater minimum pay rates, the federally mandated one is a $7.25 per hour minimum wage. There is a possibility of a “tip credit,” which lowers the minimum wage for restaurant workers who get tips.
This means that employers can pay a lower hourly rate (a minimum cash wage of $2.13 per hour) if the employee earns enough in tips to reach the minimum wage. Employers must ensure that employees earn enough in tips to make up the difference and must pay the full minimum wage if tips do not cover it.
Restaurant employees are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week. Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
While federal law does not require breaks for adult employees, many states do have laws around break times. Employers must comply with these lunch break laws, which may also include rest periods.
Illegal Things Restaurants Do to Employees
Unfortunately, some restaurants engage in illegal practices that violate wage and hour laws. Below are restaurant practices to watch out for.
Employers may pressure employees to work “off-the-clock,” or to work before or after their scheduled shift without pay. This is illegal, and employers must compensate employees for all hours worked, even if they were not scheduled.
Employers may withhold tips or require tip pooling with managers or other non-tipped employees. In general, employees are entitled to all tips they receive, and employers may not take any part of those tips.
Employers may misclassify employees as independent contractors or exempt them from overtime pay to avoid paying full wages and benefits. It’s important for employees to know their employment status and to ensure that they are being properly classified.
Employers may not pay workers for every hour completed or fail to keep proper records of the hours spent. Employers are required to maintain precise records and pay staff for all hours, including overtime.
It’s prohibited under federal and state law for employers to discriminate against workers due to their ethnic background, age, gender, or other protected traits. Every employee has the right to a safe and equitable workplace.
Employees that report to the authorities about unlawful behavior or speak out against it may face retaliation from their employers. Termination, a promotion, or other unfavorable job practices are examples of this.
Employee Protections When Working at a Restaurant
Fortunately, there are protections in place for restaurant employees who experience wage and hour violations or other illegal practices. Get to know some ways to protect your rights below.
Know Your Rights
Educate yourself on wage and hour laws and your rights as an employee. This can help you recognize when your employer is violating the law.
Keep Accurate Records
Keep track of your hours worked and pay received to ensure that you are being paid for all hours worked. If you believe your employer is violating wage laws, having accurate records can help support your claim.
Speak out to the employer or HR if you think your rights are being violated. They might be able to deal with the problem and find a solution. You can submit an appeal to a government body like the Department of Labor if dealing with the employer makes you uncomfortable.
Unions can provide additional protections and bargaining power for employees. Consider joining a union if one is available in your area.
Seek Legal Help
If you believe your employer is engaging in illegal practices, seek legal help. In addition to other legal remedies, you could be eligible for back wages and damages.
Tips for Job Seekers in the Restaurant Sector
It’s crucial to be conscious of the risk factors and take every precaution to keep yourself safe if you’re thinking about working in the restaurant sector. Check out some pointers for job seekers below.
Do Your Research on Employers
Make sure prospective companies have a solid record for handling employees by doing some research on them. Check online reviews and ask current or former employees about their experiences.
During the interview process, ask questions about pay, hours, breaks, and other important factors. Make sure you understand your rights as an employee before accepting a job offer.
Read Contracts Carefully
Before signing any contracts, read them carefully to ensure that you understand all terms and conditions. These documents often include important details like job responsibilities, pay rate, and termination clauses.
Keep Accurate Records
Once you start working, keep accurate records of your hours worked and the pay received. These records can help you negotiate for fair compensation and resolve any disputes that may arise.
If you notice any wage and hour violations or other illegal practices, speak up to your employer or HR department. If they do not address the issue, consider seeking legal help.
Protect Your Rights as a Restaurant Employee
Restaurant employees have important rights under wage and hour laws. Some restaurants, however, engage in unlawful practices that violate these rights to be more profitable.
It’s important to know your rights and to protect yourselves against the illegal things restaurants do to employees. By educating yourself on wage and hour laws, keeping accurate records, speaking up about violations, and seeking legal help, when necessary, you can protect your rights and ensure fair treatment in the workplace.
Do you need legal help? Contact us today.