Be sure to know the laws that protect service industry workers. 


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 




Your Wage


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”.


Miscellaneous Expenses


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.


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Hey you, be sure you know your rights like you know your drinks. 


Right Drinks Bartender


If you’re a bartender, you’ve seen it all: the drunks, the fighters, the pukers, the bubbly late-night bar crawlers. Part of you loves your eclectic customers, and the other part of you really wishes you could kick a few of these people out, given the opportunity.

Or, rather, given the right.

Figuring out when it’s totally okay and totally not okay to refuse service to a customer or force one to leave a bar is a gray area for a lot of bartenders. And it’s not your fault—the laws governing bars and pubs differ by state and establishment.



You should never find yourself questioning your decisions, especially when it comes to the safety of your coworkers, your customers and yourself. These rules might be confusing and overwhelming, but they’re your rights—and, yes, you have a right to know them.


When is it legal to exercise your rights?

In the United States, bartenders (i.e. establishments) have the right to evict disorderly persons from public premises. But sometimes you’ll be faced with evicting less belligerent and less conspicuous types of people for other reasons equally justifiable.

While specifics vary by state law, here are a few circumstances in which you are (almost always) allowed to ask customers to leave:

And when it comes to the fun part of your job (e.g. making alcohol taste good), bartenders can legally refuse to serve alcoholic beverages to the following types of customers:

Now that we know the basics, it’s time to delve into the specifics. What’s the easiest way to figure out your rights as a bartender?

The simplest methods are to check your handbook and ask your superior, but neither of these resources gives you the breadth of legal information expounded in your state’s statutes—which are surprisingly pretty easy to find. All you have to do is hop online and visit your state’s legislative website by searching for YOUR STATE + LAWS. (Hint: You’ll know the site is legitimate if it ends with .gov versus .com or .org.)

Once you land the correct site, search for laws regarding public accommodations, establishments, disorderly persons or eviction.

For example, according to Texas statutes, the term “disorderly conduct” applies to any of the following situations and people:

While the above examples are perfectly legal circumstances to ask customers to leave, be aware of your choices and the overall atmosphere when exercising this particular right. The last thing you want to do is ask someone to leave due to a perceived personal prejudice. In other words, don’t be a sexist, a racist or a homophobic jerk—and definitely don’t seem like you’re one, even if you’re not.

For the most part, anti-discrimination laws sound a lot like this one taken from a Florida statute: “All persons are entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, handicap, familial status, or religion.”

Sometimes, though, these laws can be hazy. Such is the case with a pregnant woman who was asked to leave a bar back in 2011 simply because of the fact she was pregnant. No, she wasn’t drinking alcohol—just water. So was kicking her out an appropriate response, or was it downright discriminatory?

That’s where the infamous gray area comes into play again. As a bartender, you have to make judgments about certain situations, but you can’t just assume a customer is a liability without law, a handbook or common sense backing you up.



So study up, research and know your rights. You’ll be thankful you do when that one potentially problematic customer comes strutting in.


Want to connect with people at your bar in a whole new way? Download the BOTY App on iTunes or Google Play for free!


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