Labor Law Issues Restaurateurs Should Be Aware of

Many new immigrants are engaged in the restaurant industry. Running a restaurant in the United States needs an understanding of American laws. Running a restaurant is not an easy job. It requires a lot of hard work and compliance with various complex laws and regulations. Any legal oversight could undo years of hard work. Today we’re going to talk about the labor law issues you need to pay close attention to when dealing with restaurant employees.

The United States is a country with strict protection of laborers. Both the federal government and the state government have formulated very detailed legal systems to regulate labor relations. The most important of these is the minimum wage system. As of Feb, 19, 2023, according to the relevant provisions of the US Fair Labor Standards Act (“The Fair Standards Act”, referred to as “FLSA”), employers should pay at least the federal minimum wage of US$7.25 per hour. Each state will publish a minimum wage applicable to its own state according to its own situation, which will generally exceed or be equal to the federal minimum wage. For example, the minimum wage in California is US$15.5 an hour; the minimum wage in New York State is US$14.2 an hour; minimum wage in Ohio is $10.1 an hour. In addition, tipped employees generally have another minimum wage system, which is usually composed of salaries paid by the employer and tips from guests. Here we need to remind restaurant owners that the above statutory minimum wages are mandatory obligations attached to the law and must be paid to employees. Failure to pay will have serious consequences. Compensation generally includes the worker’s legal fees and double the worker’s actual loss.

In addition, the US Fair Labor Standards Act also provides for overtime pay system. To put it simply, after working more than 40 hours per week, the employer must pay the employee the corresponding overtime pay. Overtime pay is generally 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly wage. Likewise, individual states have enacted corresponding regulations. Here we do not list one by one. For restaurants with longer hours, if you are understaffed such that your employees are working more than 40 hours a week, then you are likely to be obligated to pay overtime. When you encounter issues related to employee wages, please remember to seek lawyers with extensive experience for consultation, and do not rely on and believe in hearsay. Every case is different, and other people’s experience may not necessarily apply to your case.

In order to deal with wage disputes that may occur in the future, it is recommended that the owners of restaurants be aware the importance of preserving evidence, writing down all employment-related agreements or communications and keeping them properly, and avoiding any form of oral promises. Evidence worthy of your attention includes employment contract, employee’s daily sign-in sheet, accounting books of business income and tips, etc. For unavoidable disputes, you should actively deal with them. Court proceedings in the United States are very specialized and complicated. Without the help of professional lawyers, it is generally difficult to move forward, let alone to achieve ideal results. Please ask for professional help with the professional work to protect your rights.

Lei Jiang Law Firm handles various labor disputes. The first consultation is free. Please contact us.

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