Restaurant workers are among those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more than a year, they have faced employment uncertainty, risks to their health, and increased customer hostility. To make matters worse, they have also faced wage theft.
Restaurant workers are in a difficult position
According to a recent report, restaurant workers have seen tips decline considerably in the last year, while customer harassment and aggression related to enforcing COVID protocols has increased.
Along with fewer tips and harder work conditions, about a third of respondents say they were earning less than the minimum wage, while almost half say their employers did not pay them for overtime.
In other words, restaurant workers are getting paid less than they are entitled to, while also being increasingly mistreated.
Protecting restaurant workers’ rights
Hundreds of thousands of people work in New York restaurants, from fast food spots to fine dining establishments.
Unfortunately, the food and beverage industry has a troubling reputation for violating these individuals’ rights, and workers can be hesitant to report harassment and wage theft for various reasons. Some are afraid of losing their job; others are undocumented immigrants fearful of taking legal action. Still, others believe that such misconduct is the “norm” in this line of work.
However, federal and state laws are clear in dictating what employers must pay workers and how they must treat their employees. For instance, most restaurant employees are entitled to overtime compensation, and tipped employees must make more than the regular minimum wage when factoring in both wages and tips. Furthermore, employers have a duty to ensure their employees work in a safe, fair environment.
When employers in any industry fail in these obligations, they can and should be accountable for the damage these violations cause to workers.