“ According to EPI, even though the restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing sector of the economy, its workers are some of the lowest paid and are much more likely than other workers to live in poverty or near-poverty level.”
THE Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently published a study on restaurant workers, how much they earn, what jobs they do, whether they receive benefits, and whether they and their families are able to make ends meet. The findings are troubling and would make you lose your appetite.
According to EPI, even though the restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing sector of the economy, its workers are some of the lowest paid and are much more likely than other workers to live in poverty or near-poverty level.
Making the situation worse are those restaurant employers who do not think twice about taking shortcuts to profits by shortchanging their employees. Restaurant workers experience nearly all of the wage abuses that can be experienced by a worker: 12 to 14-hour work days that are not paid overtime, “off-the-clock” work which result in unpaid wages, stolen tips, meal and rest breaks that are not provided, “just-in-time” scheduling where workers are sent home early when business is slow, and inaccurate wage statements.
These abuses do not happen only at fly-by-night eateries, but even at large and well-established restaurants owned by sophisticated employers who should know better. For example, news recently ran on several San Francisco media outlets about Yank Sing, one of San Francisco’s most popular and high-priced restaurants, which will be paying $4 million to its employees to settle their various wage claims.
According to reports, in 2013, a group of Yank Sing employees complained to their employer about not being paid minimum wage and not being paid overtime, making prep cooks and servers work off the clock, managers stealing tips meant for waiters, and not being provided meal and rest breaks. (It is ironic that employees working in the food service industry are denied their meal breaks.)
At first, workers were afraid to speak up and complain because they did not want to lose their jobs. However, after the efforts of a few brave whistleblowers, more employees started to come forward to tell their stories of similar violations.
The parties went into mediation to try and resolve the employees’ claims. The employer blamed “poor record keeping” and years of “not following correct procedures,” as part of the reason for the violations. The employer agreed to pay a total of $4 million to satisfy the employees’ claims. About 280 former and current Yank Sing employees are expected to benefit from the settlement.
The employer’s failure to pay proper wages, including minimum wage and overtime, and the failure to pay for missed meal and rest periods may give rise to other violations. Therefore, in addition to the actual overtime compensation owed, employees may also recover legal interest, waiting time and record-keeping penalties, attorney’s fees and costs, and applicable civil penalties.
Employees who have unpaid hours and missed breaks at work would be wise to consult with experienced employment attorneys so they can be advised of their rights and obtain justice for themselves and their families.
The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. Atty. Sayas’ Law Office is located at 500 N. Brand Blvd. Suite 980, Glendale, CA 91203. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com.
C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is trial attorney who has obtained several million dollar recoveries for his clients against employers and insurance companies. He has been selected as a Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, featured in the cover of Los Angeles Daily Journal’s Verdicts and Settlements, and is a member of the Million Dollar-Advocates Forum.