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Restaurants are the most common violators of labor and overtime laws across the industries…  

The reason for this is that there is such a high demand for restaurant jobs, which results in a high turnover of employees in these jobs.  Simply put, employers figure that if they can get away with stealing wages as long as they can, why not continue to do so?

…And, if someone complains about it or quits, someone else is ready to work for those wages.  The most egregious violations of the wage laws I have seen in my 20 years of practice have taken place in the food industry. 

So what are the most common tricks employers use to cheat restaurant workers out of their wages?


1.       Paying Flat salaries or salaries plus tips to employees who are entitled to be compensated for overtime pay.  Remember this, a fancy title means nothing.  You have to perform exempt (managerial or administrative type duties- hiring, firing, making real business decisions) duties to be excluded from overtime.  If you are a dishwasher but they pay you a salary and call you a “silver and ceramic engineer” to avoid paying overtime, they are cheating you out of your overtime, plain and simple.  Only the highest ranking people in the restaurant are generally not entitled to overtime.



2.       Failing to combine hours worked at multiple locations for overtime purposes.   I see this one all the time.  You work 30 hours at one location and 20 hours at a second location owned by the same company or owner.  Yet, you only get paid straight time for all of your hours even though they exceed in 40 in a week.  You should be getting paid overtime for that extra 10 hours a week.  Sneaky employers.


3.       Paying the Wrong overtime rate to a tipped employee –  This is by far, the most common error made by employers in the restaurant industry.  If you are a tipped employee, you are still entitled to be paid overtime based on a time and one half rate.  Employers make the common mistake of simply paying overtime on the tip credit rate.  That’s a no no.  Here’s how it should be calculated.  If the tip credit is 3.02, and the tipped employee works 55 hours in a week (15 overtime), the hourly rate to be applied for overtime is the current Florida (or federal) minimum wage let’s use $8.46 X 1.5 (overtime rate) = $12.69  minus $3.02 (the tip credit)  = $9.67 (the overtime rate).  The employee’s overtime pay would then be 15 overtime hours per week X $9.67, totaling= $145.05 in extra wages for the week.  Check your paystubs.  I bet some of you aren’t being paid overtime properly.



4.       Making illegal deductions for walk outs and missing uniforms, or other items –   Here’s the general rule.  If the employer makes you wear the uniform for the business, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be a business expense of the employer. If your employer requires you to pay for the uniform, the employer may not reduce your wage below minimum wage.    The same thing holds true for people who walk out on their bills, broken glasses or plates, or other items.  If they benefit the employer, you should not have your wages dropped below the minimum wage to pay for them.


5.       Making you come in pre-shift to set up, and stay post-shift to clean up.  Nobody should work for free. Many employers require their employees to come in 20 minutes or more early to fill salt shakers, fold napkins, set tables, etc., all while off the clock.  The same thing happens at the end of the evening when you have clocked out and you are asked to stack chairs, wipe down tables, etc.  This is working time.  And, if this time you are not getting paid for takes you over forty hours per week, guess what?  That time needs to be paid at time and one half an hour, or the overtime rate.


If you are a restaurant worker and have questions about your employment situation and entitled wages, contact us today.  I review every employee claim personally, and if we can help you, we are going to help you, request to schedule a review of your employment situation here.