The Worst Restaurants to Work For: Is your employer on the list?

This year, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (“ROC-United”), a national restaurant workers’ organization, published a handy “Diners’ Guide” that provides information on wages, benefits and workplace standards at some of the most popular restaurants in the United States.  The guide reveals what many servers, cooks, and dishwashers already know: restaurant workers regularly face poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination, or work while sick on a regular basis.  Now the Diners’ Guide, and the reality that it brings to light, is getting some much deserved attention.  Although the guide was published much earlier this year, recent stories published in the popular internet press, and by no less a foodie than the New York Times’ Mark Bittman, have brought renewed attention to the guide. 

Restaurant industry workers are standing up for themselves in other ways, too.  Servers at restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory (named one of the worst employers in the guide and press) are suing their employers to recover lost wages for time they are required to work off the clock and for uniforms and tools that they are required to provide for themselves.

Hopefully discussions and actions like this will work to change things in the business.  Do your part to ensure that servers aren’t forced to work off the clock, pay for employer-required uniforms, and aren’t forced to work while sick.  Learn what your rights are as a tipped employee and take the guide with you when you go out to eat.

Jury Awards $2 Million Verdict to Meat Processing Facility Employees

     Yesterday (9/26/2011), a jury awarded workers from multiple Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) meat processing facilities a $2,892,378.70 verdict for uncompensated work performed before and after their shifts.  The Plaintiffs consisted of production and support employees from the Denison, IA and Storm Lake, IA facilities.  The trial took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

     Plaintiffs claimed that the donning and doffing of hard hats, work boots, hair nets, frocks, aprons, gloves, whites, and ear plugs before or after work constituted compensable “work” as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Tyson argued that these were merely “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities, for which it did not have to compensate employees. 

     The jury agreed with the Plaintiffs, and found that the preliminary and postliminary activities were compensable work under the FLSA, and, therefore, Tyson had failed to properly compensate these employees for that work.