Restaurant and Fast Food Employees: Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to Restaurant and Fast Food Employees

The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.  After 40 hours of work in a workweek, pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required.

Restaurant and Fast Food Establishment Characteristics

The restaurant/fast food industry includes establishments that are primarily engaged in selling and serving to purchasers prepared food and beverages for consumption on or off the premises.

Restaurants/fast food businesses with annual gross sales from one or more establishments that total at least $500,000 are subject to the FLSA. Also, any person who works on or otherwise handles goods that are moving in interstate commerce is individually subject to the minimum wage and overtime protection of the FLSA. For example, a waitress or cashier who handles a credit card transaction would likely be subject to the FLSA.

Restaurant and Fast Food Establishment Wage and Labor Requirements

Minimum wage: Covered non-exempt workers are entitled to a federal minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Wages are due on the regular payday for the pay period covered. Deductions made from wages for items such as cash shortages, required uniforms, or customer walk-outs are illegal if the deduction reduces the employee’s wages below the minimum wage or cuts into overtime pay. Deductions made for items other than board, lodging, or other recognized facilities normally cannot be made in an overtime workweek. Tips may be considered as part of wages, but the employer must pay not less than $2.13 an hour in direct wages and make sure that the amount of tips received is enough to meet the remainder of the minimum wage.

Food Credit: The employer may take credit for food which is provided at cost. This typically is an hourly deduction from an employee’s pay. However, the employer cannot take credit for discounts given employees on food (menu) prices.

TIPS: Tipped employees are those who customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. Employees must be informed of the provisions of FLSA section 3(m) in advance if the employer elects to use the tip credit. Also, employees must retain all of their tips, except to the extent that they participate in a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement.

Overtime: Overtime must be paid at a rate of at least one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for each hour worked in excess of 40 hours per week. In determining the regular rate for a tipped employee, all components of the employee’s wages must be considered (i.e., cash, board, lodging, facilities, and tip credit).

Some Typical Restaurant and Fast Food Establishment Wage and Labor Problems

If uniforms are required by the employer the cost of the uniform is considered to be a business expense of the employer. If the employer requires the employee to bear the cost, such cost may not reduce the employee’s wages below the minimum wage or cut into overtime compensation. When an employer claims an FLSA 3(m) tip credit, the tipped employee is considered to have been paid only the minimum wage for all non-overtime hours worked in a tipped occupation and the employer may not take deductions for walkouts, cash register shortages, breakage, cost of uniforms, etc., because any such deduction would reduce the tipped employee’s wages below the minimum wage.

Exemptions from Overtime: Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA provides an exemption from FLSA monetary requirements for an employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity or as an outside salesperson. An employee will qualify for exemption if all pertinent tests relating to duties, responsibilities and salary, as set forth in Regulations, 29 CFR Part 541, are met. The salary and duties tests for the exemptions are fully described in Regulations Part 541.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor. According to the Department of Labor, the aforementioned is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in regulations.

Kehoe Law Firm, P.C.