The federal Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced wage-and-hour enforcement initiatives that will target restaurants in Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon. While it doesn’t appear that Wisconsin is a focus of these new initiatives, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at your policies to make sure you are following the letter of the law when it comes to your employees and federal laws.
The National Restaurant Association reported that the DOL has stepped up its overall enforcement of minimum-wage and teen labor laws. During the last fiscal year, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division collected a record-high $225 million in back wages - restaurants accounted for more than 10 percent of that amount! The violations which resulted in those back wages involved more than 46,000 restaurant employees from about 5,000 restaurants according to a DOL spokesperson.
Some of the most common mistakes are:
- Illegal tip pools (including employees in tip pools who shouldn’t be, like management and kitchen staff)
- Failure to properly pay overtime (wrongly assuming that all salaried employees are exempt from overtime)
- Teen labor violations (incorrect scheduling of teens or assigning off-limit job duties to them)
- Minimum wage trouble (not properly paying tipped employees the full minimum wage rate if over the pay period their tips plus base wages don’t meet the threshold for minimum wage)
Refer to your HERO manual for easy-to-follow guidelines on these subjects. Not sure if your HERO is up to date? Visit the Members Only section of the WRA website and print out PDFs of the HERO’s Laws and Regulations.
There are many ways that WRA tries to help members avoid wage and hour audits and stay out of hot water:
Hotline Team – call 800-589-3211, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 608-270-9960 to the WRA’s team of experts on a wide variety of issues that impact your business every day, including the topics listed above
WRA News – monthly e-newsletter that updates members on changes to state and federal laws and includes reminders on common pitfalls
Info to Go – This Q&A column in Wisconsin Restaurateur magazine tackles those frequently asked questions about labor laws, food safety and business operations
Member Alerts – timely email alerts on specific issues
Labor Law Poster Pack – new and significantly revised posters are included in your annual HERO update pack each spring – you can also download the current posters from the Members Only section of the WRA website – or, purchase additional laminated sets in the WRA store