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Restaurant workers most vulnerable to wage theft

For some, working in food services is a stepping stone, making them money to pay the bills until something else comes along. For others, the restaurant industry is a calling, and they have a gift for making diners feel welcome and at home. No matter which group you fall into, one thing is for certain. You typically work extremely hard for less money than you deserve.

Because of this, when your employer rips you off, it makes a difference in your standard of life. You have probably dealt with managers and restaurant owners who find sneaky ways to steal your wages. It is frustrating, and you may feel powerless, but you do have options for fighting for your fair wages.

What does wage theft look like?

Whether it is fast food, family dining or high-end restaurants, employees often find themselves shortchanged. In fact, one U.S. Department of Labor investigation revealed that 84 percent of restaurants committed some form of wage theft. This may be shocking, considering many full-time food services employees barely make enough to stay above the poverty line. Some common ways restaurant owners steal from their employees include these:

  • Denying you overtime pay you have earned
  • Refusing to pay you when you work during your meal break
  • Paying you below minimum wage when you perform duties of a minimum wage employee
  • Forcing you to work off the clock
  • Forcing you to contribute to a tip pool so that your take-home pay is below minimum wage
  • Collecting and keeping your tips

If you receive tips from customers, it probably means you earn lower than minimum base pay. Some states are working to eliminate this two-tier pay system and pay all their workers a flat rate, but Arizona has not instituted this change.

Claiming what is yours

Meanwhile, those who suffer from wage theft often remain silent. You may be among those who know your boss is stealing from you or preventing you from earning a fair wage, but you fear retaliation if you speak up. Even if you don't earn much, you certainly can't afford to lose your job altogether if you complain about your unfair wages.

Retaliation is a violation of fair labor laws, and you have every right to have your voice heard. By consulting an attorney experienced in employment law, you may learn the most appropriate way to proceed with fighting back against wage theft.

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