3 Laws You Should Know Working in the Restaurant and Retail Industry

The restaurants and retail works industries are often great places to built careers, and both industries offer plentiful opportunities. However, some less than ideal business practices can sour the employee experience. The fast pace and stressful nature of these positions can sometimes push managers to wrongly overwork and undervalue their employees. As the busy, and stressful, holiday season looms, we at JobGet wanted to provide you with 3 general law areas that all retail/restaurant employees should be aware of:

Minimum Wage

Be aware of your state’s minimum wage rates!

For non tipped employees, states will have a range of minimum wages; some states have a minimum wage that is equal to the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour as of the time of this article), while others have a state minimum wage that is higher (at $11 per hour, Massachusetts has the highest state minimum wage in the country). More information can be found at the US Department of Labor website.

For tipped employees, the calculation is a bit more nuanced. The federal floor for cash wage for tipped employees is set at $2.13 an hour (this is the minimum an employer most pay a tipped employee) and if an employee's cash and tips (combined) falls under the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour), the employer must pay the difference. However, like the values set for non-tip employees, the rules for tipped employees can vary widely between states. The US Department of Labor provides information here as well; click here and here to learn more about minimum wages for tipped employees. Arming yourself with relevant information about the minimum wage laws in your states can help make sure that you’re properly compensated for you hard work!

Safety Rules

Restaurant work can often times involves being near some dangerous kitchen equipment and the physical nature of retail work involves its own risks as well. Be aware that your employer has a responsibility to provide you and your coworkers with a safe workplace. OSHA (occupational safety and health administration) oversees job site safety, and provides guidelines surrounding responsibility employer safety practices. More information can be found here. If you feel that your employer is neglecting safely at your workplace, then under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, you can file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of your workplace. Safety is very important, and knowing what’s expected out of your employer can make encourage a safer workplace for you and your coworkers.

Overtime Rules

As eager holiday customers flood restaurants and retail shops, employees are having to work longer and longer hours, and may sometimes even have to work some holidays. Most hourly employee that works more than 40 hours a week should be receiving overtime pay, which is at least 1.5x their usual hourly salary. Overtime is calculated on a weekly basis; even if the pay period is bi-weekly. This means that if an employee works 45 hours one week, and then 35 hours the next, he/she is still entitled to 5 hours of overtime for the first week, even though the average work time during the (biweekly) pay period is 40 hours/week. Additionally, the rules for weekend work can be different between states. In Massachusetts for example, retailers with more than 7 employees must pay overtime (time and a half) for any employee working on Sundays (excluding managers, administrators). For salaried employees, the situation is a bit different, as salaried employees are only eligible for overtime if they are paid less than $23,660 a year. On December 1st, 2016, a new rule bumped that threshold to $47,476, but at the time of this article, a federal court in Texas has temporarily stopped the government from implementing and enforcing this new procedure!