What the Disney Lawsuit Can Teach Restaurant Workers about Their Rights

Teach Restaurant Workers about Their Rights

“The Happiest Place on Earth” is under fire yet again for alleged labor violations. A former Walt Disney World employee in Orlando filed a lawsuit over tipped minimum wage, saying that during her time as a server she was required to perform excessive non-tipped work while earning a reduced wage under the tip credit system.

The tip credit means that a service worker's employer can count tips toward meeting that worker's minimum wage entitlement. In Florida, which has a minimum wage of $8.05 an hour, a service worker's tipped minimum wage can be $5.03 with the rest made up in tips. However, if the worker is also doing non-tipped work such an arrangement can be illegal.

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Unfortunately, tipped minimum wage labor law violations are all too common. Many restaurant workers are unaware of their rights on the job, a fact that is exploited by unscrupulous employers. High profile cases like this Disney lawsuit can help to educate restaurant workers about these unacceptable labor violations in the industry.

Today, we look at five common labor law violations that all restaurant industry employees should know about.

80/20 Rule Violation

In the Disney lawsuit, the former employee alleges that she was paid a tipped wage of $5.03 an hour, but more than 20 percent of her job was spent on non-tipped work, or “side work.”

Under federal law at least, tipped workers can only be paid tip credit wages if the side work consists of no more than 20 percent of their overall workload, according to U.S. Department of Labor regulations.

This is known as the 80/20 rule. If the side work exceeds 20 percent of the workload, the employee must be paid the Florida minimum wage of $8.05 per hour.

Not Being Paid for Training

Some employers will require a training program for new employees, but not pay them for the time spent training.

This is illegal — all training programs and seminars must be paid at least minimum wage if they are mandatory, occur during the employee’s regular working hours, and if the training is directly related to the employee’s job.

Illegal Tip Pooling

Some managers will take a share of their tipped employees tips for themselves or to pay the kitchen staff. However, tip pooling is subject to strict regulations under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

A valid tip pool may only include workers who make over $30 in tips each month. It cannot include kitchen staff, managers, janitors, and any other staff that does not work on a tip credit.

Breakage and Customer Walk-Out Charges

Many restaurant workers have had the cost of a customer walk-out or broken dish deducted from their pay. However, this is almost always illegal.

Deductions for walk-outs, breakages, or cash register shortages that reduce an employee’s wage below the minimum wage are not allowed under the FLSA.

Not Receiving Overtime

The FLSA strictly limits overtime exemptions to “white collar” workers such as computer employees, learned professionals, administration employees, and executives who make a certain amount of money.

Most restaurant workers are entitled to overtime pay of time-and-a-half for each additional hour worked over 40 in a week. This includes tipped employees. Many famous restaurants have been busted for wrongfully denying restaurant workers the overtime pay they are entitled to.

Have you or someone you love been wrongfully denied wages? If so, we can help. Read more to learn how our Orlando labor and employment lawyers can help you report unpaid wages and recover back pay. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.