Restaurant Workers Can’t Catch a Break

It seems that restaurant workers are in a constant battle for their rights, despite the laws in place to protect them. A recent example is discussed in James Barron’s April 19, 2011 New York Times blog post about employees at the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. The claims of confiscated tips, unpaid overtime and unpaid uniform allowances have escalated into a fight between the restaurant, and the workers and their union, the New York Hotel Trades Council. The same issues pervade the restaurant industry, with or without union involvement.

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, including one earlier this week, New York law is designed to address unfair and illegal treatment of restaurant workers. In addition to making it clear that tips belong to the wait staff and overtime must be paid, New York’s Hospitality Wage Order specifically addresses when an employee is entitled to be paid for uniform costs and care and the applicable rate. For example, if an employee is required to purchase a uniform, the employer is required to reimburse the employee by the next payday. Unless a uniform is “wash and wear” or subject to certain other exceptions, employees are entitled to  be reimbursed a specific amount per week for uniform maintenance, based on the hours they work.

The number of restaurant employee issues just continue to mount.