Fast Food and Restaurant Workers and the FLSA

No matter what, people have to eat. And restaurant employees will always be there to serve them.

There are over 7 million people employed in restaurants in the United States, a large percentage of whom work in fast food establishments. These jobs are often very transient, and the fact is that many fast food workers don’t realize that they have a number of rights under federal employment law.

Most large fast food restaurants are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Any restaurant or fast food business with annual gross sales from one or more establishments that total at least $500,000 are subject to the FLSA.

Individually, any person who works on or otherwise handles goods that are moving in interstate commerce is subject to the minimum wage and overtime protection of the FLSA. For example, a waitress or cashier who handles a credit card transaction would likely be subject to the Act, according to a post by the Department of Labor.

One interesting question that comes up in restaurant employment is how a food credit is taken against wages. The law is that the employer may take credit for food which is provided at cost. This typically is an hourly deduction from an employee’s pay. However, the employer cannot take credit or a pay deduction for discounts given employees on food (menu) prices.

As most people know, waiters, waitresses, or other restaurant staff who receive tips are not subject to the federal minimum wage standards. They receive one- half of minimum wage. However, they are still subject to the overtime provisions of the law, and are required to be paid overtime at one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage, not one and one-half times the actual wage.

Buying uniforms is another issue that comes up a lot in restaurant work. There are a couple of different ways this situation can be handled. If uniforms are required by the employer the cost of the uniform is considered to be a business expense of the employer. If the employer requires the employee to bear the cost, such cost may not reduce the employee’s wages below the minimum wage or cut into overtime compensation.

If you currently work in a restaurant or fast food place, or have recently left the food business, you may have rights under the law that you aren’t aware of. A case evaluation with an employment attorney may you to find out what those rights are.