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.

Restaurant Wait Staff Gets Stiffed

A Coral Gables restaurant agreed to pay $53,324 in back wages to 27 employees following a Department of Labor investigation. Cafe Vialetto in Coral Gables, FL agreed to pay its employees after federal investigators determined the restaurant did not pay wait staff for hours worked before and after their shifts, violating minimum wage laws. The DOL also found that the restaurant violated the overtime pay and record keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Minimum wage and overtime pay violations are very common in the restaurant industry. Illegal pay practices are so common in the industry that many restaurant workers assume that the practices must be legal. Exploitation of restaurant workers is particularly troubling because their wages are among the nations lowest. Restaurant jobs meager wages make them some of the worst paying jobs in America.

Restaurant and Service Workers Top Worst Paying Job List

Forbes ranks the 25 best and worst paying jobs in America. The ranking is based upon the U.S. Government’s National, State and Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates using 2006 data. Not surprisingly the restaurant and other service workers dominate the worst paying jobs list. Medical professionals hold 13 of the 15 top spots.

The worst paying job classification in America is “combined food preparation and service workers, including fast food.” The mean annual wages for such workers was $15,930.

The complete list of worst paying job classifications are:

  1. combined food preparation and service workers, including fast food
  2. fast food cooks
  3. dishwashers
  4. dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers
  5. hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge and coffee shop
  6. counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop
  7. gaming dealers
  8. shampooers
  9. waiters and waitresses
  10. ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers
  11. amusement and recreation attendants
  12. farm workers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse
  13. cashiers
  14. personal and home care aides
  15. lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers
  16. parking lot attendants
  17. pressers, textile, garment, and related materials
  18. food preparation workers
  19. bartenders
  20. graders and sorters, agricultural products
  21. maids and housekeeping cleaners
  22. cooks, short order
  23. child care workers
  24. laundry and dry-cleaning workers
  25. service station attendants
  26. Service station attendants, the best of the worst, had a mean annual wage of $19,150.