Your Rights As a Restaurant Worker

*The information below is federal labor law. Many states have stronger labor laws. If you have questions about your rights, fill out the form below.*

Right To Speak Up

The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity,” which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if they are acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

Algunos ejemplos de actividades concertadas protegidas son:

  • Dos o más empleados se dirigen a su empleador para mejorar su salario.
  • Dos o más empleados discutiendo temas relacionados con el trabajo más allá de la paga, como preocupaciones de seguridad, entre ellos.
  • Un empleado que habla con un empleador en nombre de uno o más compañeros de trabajo sobre la mejora de las condiciones de trabajo.

What About Social Media?

Even if you are not represented by a union, federal labor law gives you the right to band together with coworkers to improve your lives at work – including joining together on social media. Using social media can be a form of “protected concerted” activity. You have the right to address work-related issues and share information about pay, benefits, and working conditions with coworkers on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms. But just individually griping about some aspect of work is not “concerted activity”: what you say must have some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or bring a group complaint to the attention of management. Be solutions oriented!

Wage & Hour Rights

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer must compensate you at least $7.25 per hour. If you are receiving the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, you must make at least $7.25 per hour by the end of the work week. If you have a slow day and average $6 per hour including tips on a shift, under federal labor law, you are not entitled to the difference on that one shift, as what counts is the total amount at the end of the work week.

For overtime, if you are paid at least the minimum wage, you are owed your standard wage x 1.5 after working 40 hours during the week. If you are paid below the minimum wage as a tipped worker, your compensation is calculated differently. If your employer is paying you $2.13 per hour, your overtime rate is $5.75 per hour. To learn more about how overtime is calculated for those being paid less than the minimum wage, please visit the Department of Labor’s Calculator Advisor.

A few other rights to remember:

  • Your employer cannot make you pay for a walk-out.
  • Your employer cannot make you pay for a cash-drawer shortage.
  • Your employer cannot make you work off the clock.
  • Your employer cannot make you spend more than 20% of your entire shift (or 30+ continuous minutes) performing side-work duties without compensating you at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

 

Finally, there is not a federal law outright prohibiting the shady practice of employers passing off a portion of the cost of credit card processing fees to tipped staff. Restaurants are legally allowed to deduct a value no higher than the amount of the credit card processing fee. Although this means that your employer can make you pay for the basic cost of doing business, it also means that there is a ceiling on how much they can pass off onto you. If you believe your employer is taking more money than what they are being charged, reach out to us by filling out the form at the bottom of this page. 

 

What About Discrimination?

Under the federal labor law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.

The EEOC is responsible for protecting you from employment discrimination because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information. 

The laws enforced by EEOC protect you from employment discrimination when it involves:

  • Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
  • Harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
  • Denial of a reasonable workplace change that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability.
  • Improper questions about or disclosure of your genetic information or medical information.
  • Retaliation because you complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit.

What About Harassment?

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Health & Safety Rights

Federal law entitles you to a safe workplace. Your employer must keep your workplace free of known health and safety hazards. You have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation. You also have the right to:

  • Receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Refuse to work in a situation in which you would be exposed to a hazard
  • Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards

As a worker center, we believe the strongest antidote to workplace concerns is organizing. If your restaurant has health & safety issues, such as intolerable temperatures in the kitchen, we recommend creating your own heat squad –  a committee of coworkers at your restaurant working together to tackle heat-related issues. To take action on heat-related issues & learn more about our organizing work, check out our Beat The Heat page.

How to Read Your Pay Stub

Whether you get a paper stub or view it on an app, get in the habit of keeping records so you can stay on top of your wages. Keeping records is a great way to combat wage theft; start now to save yourself stress later. Plus, if your work uses one of the apps, you might not always have access to this data, especially if you are removed from the schedule without notice.

Note: If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, your employer is not required to provide a paystub. It’s super important to document clock in/out times, tip outs and deposits on your own! Be consistent and thorough; you are your own best advocate.

Sample Pay Stub

  1. Dates worked – the pay period is the dates you worked that this paycheck applies to. Generally this ends the week prior; for example, if this check is handed to you on Friday, April 7, it’s for the two-week period ending on Friday, March 31.
  2. How much you’ve earned this pay period – the gross income is how much you earned this pay period. Take your hourly rate and multiply it by the number of hours worked plus tips (if you make tips). “Gross” means the overall total; when you subtract taxes and deductions, it’s called “net.”
  3. How much you’ve earned this year – YTD Gross Income is the total amount of money you’ve earned this year up until the last date of the pay period. YTD stands for “year to date.”
  4. Amount of federal taxes withheld – federal Tax is the amount the federal government takes out of your taxes. This is a predetermined percentage based on income. This tax pays for federal programs like highways, education, the military, the Department of Labor, the EEOC etc.
  5. Amount of Social Security taxes withheld – FICA SS Tax is another way to say Social Security. This is another predetermined percentage. This is a federal program that you pay into as a worker, and can start to collect when you turn 65.
  6. Amount of Medicare taxes withheld – FICA Medicare Tax is Medicare tax, another predetermined percentage that you pay into during your working years. You can cash out Medicare starting at age 62.
  7. Amount of state taxes withheld – state tax is the tax collected by the state that you work in. Not all states collect this.
  8. Total deductions withheld – deductions are taken out of your paycheck to pay for things like a 401(k), health insurance, uniforms, union wages, or if your wages are garnished for any reason. When you are hired and fill out your paperwork, you’ll have to do a “worksheet” where you indicate all of this stuff. All of these deductions are considered voluntary (even if your wages are garnished by the courts). It’s a great idea to double check this on your first paycheck and make sure the total is correct.
  9. Take home pay – Net income is the gross income minus taxes and deductions. This is the amount that is deposited aka your take home pay.

Questions to Ask

  • Are my hours correct?
  • Am I being paid for overtime? (Tipped workers get OT too!)
  • Are my tips adding up?
  • Am I being paid the correct minimum wage according to my local & state laws?
  • Are the deductions correct?
  • Was I forced to sign a 1099?

Records to Keep

  • Clock-in / clock-out
  • Hourly wage
  • Deductions claimed
  • Tip out
  • Pay stub

The National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity,” which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if they are acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.

Algunos ejemplos de actividades concertadas protegidas son:

  • Dos o más empleados se dirigen a su empleador para mejorar su salario.
  • Dos o más empleados discutiendo temas relacionados con el trabajo más allá de la paga, como preocupaciones de seguridad, entre ellos.
  • Un empleado que habla con un empleador en nombre de uno o más compañeros de trabajo sobre la mejora de las condiciones de trabajo.
Even if you are not represented by a union, federal labor law gives you the right to band together with coworkers to improve your lives at work – including joining together on social media. Using social media can be a form of “protected concerted” activity. You have the right to address work-related issues and share information about pay, benefits, and working conditions with coworkers on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media platforms. But just individually griping about some aspect of work is not “concerted activity”: what you say must have some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or bring a group complaint to the attention of management. Be solutions oriented!
 

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer must compensate you at least $7.25 per hour. If you are receiving the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour, you must make at least $7.25 per hour by the end of the work week. If you have a slow day and average $6 per hour including tips on a shift, under federal labor law, you are not entitled to the difference on that one shift, as what counts is the total amount at the end of the work week.

For overtime, if you are paid at least the minimum wage, you are owed your standard wage x 1.5 after working 40 hours during the week. If you are paid below the minimum wage as a tipped worker, your compensation is calculated differently. If your employer is paying you $2.13 per hour, your overtime rate is $5.75 per hour. To learn more about how overtime is calculated for those being paid less than the minimum wage, please visit the Department of Labor’s Calculator Advisor.

A few other rights to remember:

  • Your employer cannot make you pay for a walk-out.
  • Your employer cannot make you pay for a cash-drawer shortage.
  • Your employer cannot make you work off the clock.
  • Your employer cannot make you spend more than 20% of your entire shift (or 30+ continuous minutes) performing side-work duties without compensating you at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

 

Finally, there is not a federal law outright prohibiting the shady practice of employers passing off a portion of the cost of credit card processing fees to tipped staff. Restaurants are legally allowed to deduct a value no higher than the amount of the credit card processing fee. Although this means that your employer can make you pay for the basic cost of doing business, it also means that there is a ceiling on how much they can pass off onto you. If you believe your employer is taking more money than what they are being charged, reach out to us by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.

Under the federal labor law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.

The EEOC is responsible for protecting you from employment discrimination because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information. 

The laws enforced by EEOC protect you from employment discrimination when it involves:

  • Unfair treatment because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
  • Harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in your workplace, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older), or genetic information.
  • Denial of a reasonable workplace change that you need because of your religious beliefs or disability.
  • Improper questions about or disclosure of your genetic information or medical information.
  • Retaliation because you complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit.

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Federal law entitles you to a safe workplace. Your employer must keep your workplace free of known health and safety hazards. You have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation. You also have the right to:

  • Receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Refuse to work in a situation in which you would be exposed to a hazard
  • Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards

 

As a worker center, we believe the strongest antidote to workplace concerns is organizing. If your restaurant has health & safety issues, such as intolerable temperatures in the kitchen, we recommend creating your own heat squad – a committee of coworkers at your restaurant working together to tackle heat-related issues. To take action on heat-related issues & learn more about our organizing work, check out our Beat The Heat page.

Whether you get a paper stub or view it on an app, get in the habit of keeping records so you can stay on top of your wages. Keeping records is a great way to combat wage theft; start now to save yourself stress later. Plus, if your work uses one of the apps, you might not always have access to this data, especially if you are removed from the schedule without notice.

Note: If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, your employer is not required to provide a pay stub. It’s super important to document clock in/out times, tip outs and deposits on your own! Be consistent and thorough; you are your own best advocate.
 

Sample Pay Stub

  1. Dates worked – the pay period is the dates you worked that this paycheck applies to. Generally this ends the week prior; for example, if this check is handed to you on Friday, April 7, it’s for the two-week period ending on Friday, March 31.
  2. How much you’ve earned this pay period – the gross income is how much you earned this pay period. Take your hourly rate and multiply it by the number of hours worked plus tips (if you make tips). “Gross” means the overall total; when you subtract taxes and deductions, it’s called “net.”
  3. How much you’ve earned this year – YTD Gross Income is the total amount of money you’ve earned this year up until the last date of the pay period. YTD stands for “year to date.”
  4. Amount of federal taxes withheld – federal Tax is the amount the federal government takes out of your taxes. This is a predetermined percentage based on income. This tax pays for federal programs like highways, education, the military, the Department of Labor, the EEOC etc.
  5. Amount of Social Security taxes withheld – FICA SS Tax is another way to say Social Security. This is another predetermined percentage. This is a federal program that you pay into as a worker, and can start to collect when you turn 65.
  6. Amount of Medicare taxes withheld – FICA Medicare Tax is Medicare tax, another predetermined percentage that you pay into during your working years. You can cash out Medicare starting at age 62.
  7. Amount of state taxes withheld – state tax is the tax collected by the state that you work in. Not all states collect this.
  8. Total deductions withheld – deductions are taken out of your paycheck to pay for things like a 401(k), health insurance, uniforms, union wages, or if your wages are garnished for any reason. When you are hired and fill out your paperwork, you’ll have to do a “worksheet” where you indicate all of this stuff. All of these deductions are considered voluntary (even if your wages are garnished by the courts). It’s a great idea to double check this on your first paycheck and make sure the total is correct.
  9. Take home pay – Net income is the gross income minus taxes and deductions. This is the amount that is deposited aka your take home pay.

 

Questions to Ask

  • Are my hours correct?
  • Am I being paid for overtime? (Tipped workers get OT too!)
  • Are my tips adding up?
  • Am I being paid the correct minimum wage according to my local & state laws?
  • Are the deductions correct?
  • Was I forced to sign a 1099?

 

Records to Keep

  • Clock-in / clock-out
  • Hourly wage
  • Deductions claimed
  • Tip out
  • Pay stub

Do You Have Questions About Your Rights?

Fill out the form with your basic information along with any questions or issues you’d like to have support with.