Be sure to know the laws that protect service industry workers.
Whether you work in a hotel or a bar, the common mentality seems to be, do as you’re told and don’t ask questions. Maybe in your place this means tipping out everyone under the sun or working 5 back to back doubles.
However, regardless of where you work and who owns the establishment, you have rights. The Department of Labor has regulations that dictate everything from your hours to your wages. You don’t have to put up with unfair treatment just because you’re in the service industry.
Let’s Talk About Money
This is a tricky one. Wage laws are constantly in flux in America and it can be hard to keep up. Every state is different, but rules govern what your employer has to pay you. In some states tipped workers must receive the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25), while in others employers are exempt from this requirement. Now is a good time to whip out that pay stub and see what you’re getting. Find the laws for your state HERE. If you’re not being paid the correct amount you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Go HERE for some frequently asked questions.
Ok, so you probably make most of your money from tips, not from your hourly rate. Every establishment does things slightly differently, but it’s standard practice to tip out bartenders, busboys, etc. However, even though the tip out procedure varies from place to place, laws govern who is eligible to receive these payouts and who is not. For instance, there is no requirement to tip out maintenance workers, chefs and managers. For more info, go HERE.
Keeping Your Tips
You, as a tipped employee, should be keeping all of your earned tips (excluding valid tip pooling of course). The owner can never take any of this money from you. Also, if your employer is taking weeks to dole out your money, they may be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Contact the Department of Labor if you think there’s an issue.
Also, if your combined tips and wages do not equal the federal minimum wage, your employer may be responsible for making up the difference.
Despite the variations across the country, all tipped employees should receive overtime after 40 hours of work. Additionally, this overtime should be calculated using the full minimum wage as a base, not the lower, exemption wage. Go HERE for more info.
Regulations on Hours
There are tons of regulations on hours, breaks, and pay. However, they vary wildly from state to state. Generally, for every certain amount of hours worked, you should receive a “meal” or “rest” break. There are also laws governing how much you are owed for “split-shifts:” days when you might have to work from 9am-3pm and then again from 5pm-10pm.
While you may have heard that you are owed a certain amount of hours between shifts, there actually isn’t a legal requirement for this. However, there are people working towards putting this in place. Hopefully that will signal the end of “clopening”.
Although yet again, these rules vary state by state, it may be illegal for a restaurant to charge you for walk-outs, cash register shortages, and other random mishaps. Your employer may even be responsible for paying for your uniform and its upkeep.
Look up the laws in your area if you think you’re being illegally held accountable for any costs.
A Safe Workplace
You are entitled to a safe and healthy work environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces regulations on workplace safety. They are also the ones to go to if you have any questions or would like to report unsafe conditions. Visit their site HERE for more info or to file a complaint, which you can do anonymously.
Note: It is 100% illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you file a complaint. Dontact the Department of Labor or a lawyer if you are treated unfairly.
Injured on the Job
If you hurt yourself on the job, you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation from your employer. HERE is a handy little fact sheet about the requirements for filing a workers’ comp claim.
We take your safety and rights very seriously. However, we are neither a government agency nor are we lawyers. If you feel you are being mistreated or have questions about the laws in your area, contact the appropriate department.