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Waiters’ Workplace Rights in New York

Our New York employment law attorneys represent servers and waiters that have been deprived of the wages, tips, overtime pay and etc. get back compensation for their work.

Waiters and waitresses all over America are filing claims and fighting back for the pay they are entitled by law to receive, according to an article in the Huffington Post. The article reports that labor law violations abound in the restaurant business and that the number of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) cases has increased by 200 percent.

Legal Entitlements of Wait Staff in the Workplace

Tips belong to employees, not their employers. Except in the case of valid tip-pooling agreements, wait staff cannot be required to give up their tips or a portion of their tips to their employers. When tips are shared in tip-pooling agreements, they can be distributed only among certain employees, not including managers and kitchen staff.

As reported in the Huffington Post article:

  • Restaurants in New York have to pay their waiters and waitresses either a minimum wage of $8.75 per hour or a tipped minimum wage of $5 per hour.
  • Servers who spend more than 20 percent of their time doing work that does not generate tips must be paid full minimum wage.
  • Restaurants are required to pay overtime to workers who put in more than 40 hours per week.
  • If training is mandatory in a restaurant, employees must be paid for the time they spend training – full minimum wage if they do not receive tips.
  • Waiters and waitresses should not be charged for broken dishes or for customers who exit the restaurant without paying.
  • If wait staff have to purchase uniforms or pay to have them cleaned, the restaurant should reimburse them.
  • If a credit card company assesses a fee, the restaurant is only allowed to deduct the correct proportionate amount from the tip.

Wait staff, like other employees, are protected under FLSA minimum wage requirements. Employers may pay less than minimum wage as long as their servers receive enough in tips to bring the hourly rate up to minimum wage. If a server does not make enough in tips to bring the total compensation up to minimum wage in any given shift, the employer is required to make up the difference.

Ways Employers Violate Waiters’ Rights

The Wiser Waitress reports that labor law violations are so widespread in the restaurant business that many restaurant workers assume this is the normal way things are done. According to the article, a study of the New York City restaurant industry revealed that 59 percent of restaurant workers reported overtime violations and 73 percent did not have health insurance. Many restaurant workers did not even know that tip sharing with management or kitchen staff is illegal.

FLSA lawsuits are being filed for tips restaurant owners collected and illegally pocketed or spread among workers and for overtime pay restaurant workers did not receive, according to the Huffington Post. Immigrants are commonly employed in restaurants, and business owners may take advantage of a lack of legal status and fail to comply with labor laws where those workers are concerned.

Are You Owed Back Wages or Other Compensation?

Restaurant workers have rights, and they are recovering millions in lost wages from New York City restaurants, according to Wiser Waitress. For example, a celebrity chef and his business partner agreed to a $5.25 million settlement of a suit for tip-skimming allegations, as reported by the New York Post.

If you have been paid less than minimum wage, if your tips have been pocketed by your employer or distributed among unqualified workers, or if you have not been paid overtime for hours beyond 40 hours per week, you may be entitled to file a claim for back wages or other compensation.

Laws governing the payment of restaurant employees are complicated. The Huffington Post reports that even lawyers and accountants often find them confusing. If you are uncertain whether your employer has violated your rights and whether you may be entitled to back wages or other compensation, your best course of action is to consult with a Long Island lawyer who handles employment law matters. Our attorneys have the experience, skills and dedication to protect your rights and help your recover the wages and compensation you deserve.

How Our Long Island Employment Lawyers Help Restaurant Workers

At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, our Long Island employment lawyers help level the playing field for New York waiters and waitresses. We are well-versed in employment and labor law, and we take the rights and protections the law provides for workers seriously.

If you have been deprived of the wages, tips or overtime pay you were entitled to receive by law, our Long Island employment lawyers can help. Contact us today for an immediate free case evaluation.

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