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Are You Being Taken Advantage of in the Restaurant Industry?

Working in the restaurant industry can be very rewarding, but it’s also hard work and comes with its own unique frustrations. One of the biggest challenges for anyone with a career in the industry relates to wages.

Most servers who work in restaurants, as well as others who are part of the daily operations of a restaurant, are paid a lower-than-legal-minimum wage. They surpass the legal minimum through tips. It is completely legal for restaurant owners to pay employees less than minimum wage in this industry because for most, the tips earned during work shifts far surpass the legal minimum.

Unfortunately, some restaurant owners take advantage of the unusual wage laws in the industry.

Clocking In and Clocking Out

Much like any workplace, there are guidelines having to do with clocking in and tracking hours worked by employees. For instance, employees cannot be asked to not “clock in” for their shift or “clock out” of their shift if they are still performing work responsibilities.

In more than one case investigated by the Department of Labor, employees reported they were asked to work without punching into the time clock to begin their shift. In one case, an investigation showed employees worked as much as two hours before being allowed to clock in.

Why Do Employees Tolerate Not Getting Paid for the Hours They Work?

In many cases, employees report they are told by their employer that not clocking in immediately is “the norm” in the industry. Essentially, employers are using industry peer pressure and hoping employees don’t raise any red flags. They know many people are desperate to keep their jobs and do not want to “rock the boat” when it comes to the directives they are given by supervisors in the workplace.

Other employers create a situation in which an employee’s job is more difficult unless they come in early to do off-the-clock preparation. For instance, an employee’s shift might begin at 3 pm. However, if work doesn’t begin until that time, they are already behind and it’s difficult to keep up with the demands of the job throughout the evening. They take it upon themselves or are told by their employer they can begin work earlier to make their job duties achievable, but there is no offer made to pay for this work they are doing.

What You Should Know If This Sound Familiar

First and foremost, you need to understand if any of the above circumstances are occurring at your workplace, it is wage theft and it is illegal. Any time an hourly employee is asked to work off-the-clock, federal (and often state) laws are being broken.

Furthermore, the work you do must be compensated with money in private industries (nearly every restaurant), so if you are offered the opportunity to work in exchange for merchandise or comp time, that arrangement is likely illegal, too. Comp time in exchange for time worked can be exchanged for public employees, but there must be an agreed-upon policy in place. For more information on comp time rules in the workplace, check out this article from Entrepreneur magazine.

If you believe you are being taken advantage of in the workplace or you work in the restaurant industry and your employer seems to “stretch the rules” when it comes to clocking in or working overtime, it’s important to take action. You might be entitled to back pay and a policy change in the workplace might be in order. For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your situation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.

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