Posted By:

Cheryl Miles on June 5, 2014

Labor Laws for Restaurant Workers – What Employers Need to Know

The restaurant industry is a major one in the U.S., and experts project considerable growth over the next decade. As of 2013, there were 13.1 million Americans employed in the restaurant industry, which equals roughly a tenth of the total workforce. It’s also common for young people to get started in this industry, and a third of adults got their first job experience in a restaurant.

Consequently, there are numerous regulations to keep workers safe and ensure their health and wellbeing. Here’s what you need to know as an employer.


Fair Labor Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 was created to provide employees with safe working conditions and enforce standards to maintain a healthful environment. Some things that you are responsible for when running a restaurant is providing safety training, providing employees with the necessary protective gear, having a first aid kit readily available and displaying an OHSA poster.

You can find out how to obtain a free poster through this link. It’s also up to you to ensure that workers are allowed a designated break period and meal periods for individuals working longer shifts.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was created to guarantee that workers receive adequate compensation and to protect the rights of minors. A key point of this act is that all workers earn at least minimum wage and are paid no less than 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay for overtime hours.

You must also maintain thorough recordkeeping where you keep track of the hours and pay of all employees. Like the OSHA requirements, you are supposed to display an FLSA poster in your workplace, which can be found here.


Unfair Labor Practice

When it comes to employing young workers under the age of 18, they must not perform duties that could be deemed as hazardous. Some examples include “operating power-driven bakery equipment, such as horizontal or vertical dough mixers, batter mixers, and dough sheeters.” They cannot serve alcoholic beverages or operate a vehicle for work related duties.

For workers under the age of 16, the regulations are more stringent and they aren’t allowed to operate, set up or clean things like power-driven cutters and slicers, pressurized fryers or perform complex cooking tasks. Instead, younger workers are typically supposed to do safer tasks like greeting restaurant guests, taking orders, bussing tables, shelving goods, etc.

In terms of hours, minors under the age of 16 can work no more than three hours on school days and no more than eight hours on non-school days. There are also limitations with their shifts, and they can’t work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., with the exception of June 1 through Labor Day where they can work until 9 p.m.


Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees

Because restaurants employ waiters, bartenders and other individuals that make a percentage of their income on tips, you need to understand the laws concerning minimum wage for tipped employees. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “an employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage, the employee retains all tips and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips.

If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.” This guide offers a breakdown of wage and hour division by state so you can get a better idea of how this works.

Understanding the labor laws for restaurant workers is important for keeping your establishment on the right side of the law. Because this is an industry that’s notorious for employing minors, it’s also crucial to know what younger workers can and can’t do.

One way to streamline this area of operations is to utilize the help of professional human resources services. Doing so should help you meet legal requirements and keep employees safe while freeing up your time to concentrate on bigger issues.


Photo Source: Pixabay