Wage disputes seem to be a common problem for restaurant employees — whether they’re working at a burger joint or waiting tables at a four-star establishment. Lawsuits over wages have doubled in the last decade, leaving employers and employees equally disgruntled.
How do wage violations happen in restaurants? There are several common issues:
Some employers will pay a few of their workers “under the table.” This is particularly common in small establishments, especially those that are mostly family-owned and operated. Keeping the number of countable employees below a certain limit reduces an owner’s insurance and tax liabilities. It also makes it easier to deprive workers of their rightly earned wages and overtime. It’s hard to demand overtime when you aren’t even an official employee.
Even larger employers have been caught doing this one. In order to avoid paying overtime — or even giving an employee full-time status (along with insurance and other benefits) — restaurant managers have been known to carefully track the number of hours their employees work. When an employee reaches or exceeds 40 hours, they may “shift” those hours to the next pay cycle. This keeps the official tally of the worker’s wages below the threshold for either full-time or overtime pay.
This is a big issue. An employee isn’t exempted from overtime just because he or she is salaried. Employers know this and will sometimes reclassify an employee who has little or no actual managerial duties into a pseudo-managerial position anyhow. It’s important for employees to realize that being called a “shift manager” and given a salary may not be something done for their benefit. It could be a sneaky way of trying to deprive an employee of overtime.
Employees should be alert to signs that an employer is trying to skirt the rules on overtime and wages. Detailed wall charts showing exactly which employees worked what hours (and showing how those hours are being shifted to other pay periods) are a sign. So are cash payments and sudden promotions without the attendant responsibilities. If you’re being victimized by an employer, the Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA) does provide remedies.
Source: Risk Placement Services, Inc., “The Rise of Wage-and-Hour Disputes for Restaurants,” accessed April 20, 2018