This year, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) focused on restaurants to determine whether restaurant employees were properly paid. The response was a resounding statement that the restaurant industry is vulnerable for minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
One problem is that restaurant employees do not know that their rights are being violated. Restaurant employees are some of the lowest paid employees in the nation and are paid even less when restaurants violate the FLSA when paying them. It’s important that restaurant employees learn how they should be paid under the FLSA. Hourly restaurant employees must be paid at least $7.25 per hour and one and one-half times this hourly rate for all hours over 40 in a workweek. The FLSA allows restaurants to compensate tipped employees just $2.13 per hour plus tips as long as their regular rate is at least minimum wage. Also, the federal regulations allow restaurants to require their tipped employees to participate in tip pools. These tip pool regulations are very specific and only allow certain employees to participate in the tip pools.
As part of the DOL’s restaurant investigation, Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant I, II and III – and Papa’s and Beer Mexican Restaurant agreed in October to pay 85 employees $485,913 in back wages due to minimum wage and overtime FLSA violations. The federal violations included paying kitchen staff a set salary without regard to the number of hours the employees worked and not providing additional compensation to tipped employees whose $2.13 per hour plus tips did not always equal at least minimum wage for each hour worked.
It is important that restaurant employees (servers, waiters/waitresses, hosts/hostesses, bartenders, bussers, barbacks, kitchen staff, etc.) learn about their rights to pay under the FLSA by contacting Atlanta overtime attorneys.