Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) April 14, 2015 - Though the fact that restaurants are vulnerable to lawsuits for fair labor violations has made some owners unhappy, many recognize that it levels the playing field for all workers, ultimately making the industry more ethical and fair.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the go-to legislation applicable to wages and hours paid in all states. It deals with four specific areas: standards for youth employment, overtime pay, record keeping and the Federal minimum wage, currently $7.25/hour. Most of the investigations launched by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDL) in restaurant cases involve back pay restitution owed to workers who do not earn tips, such as kitchen staff alleging they have to work off the clock – a form of wage theft.
It appears the culture existing in the restaurant industry is partly to blame for fair wage issues, making long, hard hours seem normal. That being said, it is still illegal to short change staff and not pay them what they have legally earned. Only owners can fix the problem. It helps to create a climate of change when workers do file wage and hour claims.
“Traditionally, restaurants have paid staff lower wages and/or have not paid for all hours actually worked thanks to an owner’s mentality that expects workers to arrive early and stay late to work their way up through the ranks,” says experienced Sacramento employment attorney Deborah Barron. However, the reality today is that all workers must be paid a fair wage for all hours worked, and not just receive remuneration for hours the employer is willing to pay.
Another complexity of the relationship between restaurant owners and staff is the number of workers not filing wage and hour complaints for fear of losing their jobs. These are the workers without a voice. Even though the statistics may seem high, many of these people are immigrants, poor people and young people choosing not to assert their rights, instead just doing what they are told.
They do it to be considered a part of the team working in their restaurant, but with the team mentality comes expected sacrifices of time and wages for the good of the whole. In reality, that is illegal. A worker may not only sue for unpaid back wages, but for punitive damages as well. Ultimately, it is less expensive for a restaurant owner to pay proper wages than for them to be sued.
California is not the only state to experience an unprecedented increase in the number of restaurants being investigated, and possibly sued, for fair labor violations. In Oregon, the USDL handled over 400 such violations between 2009 and 20014. Oregon restaurants alone have agreed to pay back a total of approximately $1.8 million.
“If you think your employer owes you back pay, has been making you work off the clock, is not paying your for all the hours you have worked, reach out and speak to an experienced employment attorney,” adds Barron. “You do have rights. Find out what they are and how to make sure you get what you are entitled to from your employer.”
To compare other state’s wages with California, visit the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division: http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm
Barron Law Corporation
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