Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Worker Rights | Mann & Elias
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Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Worker Rights

Successful Litigators of Restaurant Employment Law

California has some of the best eateries from San Francisco to the Greater Bay Area and right here in Los Angeles. As a restaurant employee, you work hard for fair treatment and compensation. When employers violate your state-protected workers’ rights, you might need to hire a lawyer for restaurant employee discrimination. Here’s why.

Restaurant work pre and post-pandemic have been nothing short of daunting. The nature of the job might require you to work through your lunch break, put in overtime hours, or take care of small tasks off-the-clock. Regardless of how hectic the work environment gets, you should be able to address your concerns free from the risks of wrongful termination, retaliation, and discrimination.

This article answers the most frequently asked questions about restaurant workers’ rights to help you manage your workplace concerns before consulting with an attorney.

I worked overtime and didn’t get paid for it. How do I file a complaint?

Before you file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor, we recommend verifying if you are an exempt or non-exempt employee. Exempt workers are not entitled to overtime. Whereas non-exempt workers who get paid by the hour qualify.

Waiters, bussers, cooks, and hostesses are typically non-exempt and work beyond 40 hours a week. If addressing your concerns to an employer hasn’t worked, you should issue a complaint through the WHD hotline:

1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)

TTY: 1-877-889-5627

What are the top employment law violations?

  • Withholding pay
  • Paying less than minimum wage
  • Not paying wages at least 2x per month
  • No meal or rest breaks
  • Failing to keep pay stubs

What are the labor laws for working an 8-hour shift?

  • You can work an 8-hour shift straight without taking a break, but your employer is legally required to provide the option to you.
  • California requires 30-minute breaks every five hours for employees working six hours or less.
  • The time limit of the meal break increases the more hours you take on throughout the day.
  • Anything between 10 and 20 minutes is considered a short break.
  • It is up to the employer whether they choose to compensate you for the mealtime.

Can restaurants make servers pay for mistakes?

No – employers are not permitted to charge employees for mistakes, including broken dishes, register shortages, faulty equipment, or loss of company property.

Are you entitled to get paid for on-call time?

Yes! If you show up to work during the on-call time slot, your employer is required to pay you for this time, as you are physically waiting and preparing to begin work. Employees who do not stay at work while on call vary, as they are not physically on the job.

Is it illegal to not pay servers?

It is illegal to withhold pay or tips from servers. Unfortunately, gender discrimination and sexual harassment are common concerns within the food industry, so many of these disrespectful acts are towards waitresses, not waiters. Studies show 90% of women working in restaurants have experienced harassment on the job from customers, co-workers, and managers. Compared to men, women are also unlikely to advance in the industry without complications. Failing to compensate the women on staff fairly can lead to a serious lawsuit.

What are the hour requirements for minors between 14 and 15?

Employees aged 14 and 15 can work a non-hazardous job no more than:

  • 3 hours on a school day
  • 18 hours in a school week
  • 8 hours on a day off from school
  • 40 hours in a non-school week

They cannot start before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m.

What are the hour requirements for minors between 16 and 17?

If the job is non-hazardous, they can work for unlimited hours within restaurants.

Do servers legally have to tip out?

Tipping out means that the waitstaff and bartenders can collect tips between shifts and equally distribute a percentage to everyone else on staff. Servers do not have to tip out to owners, managers, or supervisors. If they force you to split your profits with them, that is considered a violation. An employment attorney would encourage you to document how often this occurs, should you need to file a lawsuit.

About Mann & Elias

The Law Offices of Mann & Elias is an employment law firm that provides guidance and legal support for individuals facing issues in the workplace. We represent clients at every level of the state and federal court systems. While there are thousands of lawyers to choose from, we strongly believe our success is based on:

  • 50+ years of trial experience
  • Excellent advocacy skills
  • Intense preparation and research
  • Quality care

When your case is in our hands, we hope to minimize stress and concerns associated with work. For dedicated representation with no upfront fees, give us a call at 323-866-9564 or email


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