WRA Resources

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The WRA is committed to providing the best quality, value and services to meet your needs. We strive to keep our members and the public informed about critical issues that impact the foodservice and hospitality industry. Through national and local resources the WRA gathers information to provide current news, trends, regulatory changes and operational guidance.

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Question: Does an employer have to chip in money if a tipped employee does not earn enough tips to cover the difference between the general minimum wage and the tipped wage?

Answer: If over the work week, an employee does not receive enough money in tips plus actual base wages to bring him or her up to the full minimum wage, the employer must increase the base wages to make up the difference. This adjustment may be paid at the normal pay period.


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Previous Front Burner Topics:

5.15.19 Q: Can restaurants allow patrons to have their dogs with them on outdoor patio areas?

A: The Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection indicates that dogs can be allowed in outside seating areas of restaurants if the restaurant obtains an approved variance.

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5.22.19 Q: Are there requirements for restaurant employees to inform their manager if they are ill?

A: Yes. The Wisconsin Food Code requires employees to inform the manager on duty if they are sick with certain types of illnesses or symptoms including vomiting or diarrhea. If an employee has had diarrhea or has been vomiting, they cannot return to work until 48 hours after the symptoms have ceased.

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5.29.19 Q: Can I pay a teenaged employee less than the minimum wage?

A: Employers can pay 14- to 19-year-old employees an opportunity wage of $5.90 per hour for the first 90 calendar days on the job.

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6.6.19 Q: Am I required to give my adult employee breaks?

A: The Department of Workforce Development recommends, but does not require, that employers give breaks to adult employees over age 18 (close to usual meal periods). Under state law, any break of less than 30 minutes must be paid. Breaks that are 30 minutes or longer may be unpaid.

However, Wisconsin law does require employers to give employees under the age of 18 at least a 30-minute meal break if the employee works more than 6 hours. The break may be unpaid. You must document when the break begins and ends. The minor may not waive the break.

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6.12.19 Q: Are there any circumstances where a patron who is under 21 years old could drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant?

A: A minor (under 21) can drink if accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse of legal drinking age. Some people question whether this exception still applies to people ages 18-21. Parental rights do not cease at age 18, a parent is still a parent whether their child is 17 or 71. So an 18-, 19- or 20-year-old can drink with their parent, guardian or spouse of legal drinking age.

However, an establishment can have a policy not to serve anyone under 21 even if they are with their parent, guardian or spouse of legal drinking age. If this is the policy, it must be enforced the same for everyone.

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6.19.19 Q: Is the gas used in soda and beer exempt from sales tax?

A: Yes, CO2 is considered to be exempt from sales tax. You can provide a fully completed sales and use tax exemption certificate (Form s-211 or S-211-SST) to your supplier when purchasing CO2 used to make tap beer and fountain soda that you sell in your restaurant. Your purchase is an exempt purchase for resale. Additionally, any charges the CO2 supplier makes to you for the cylinder are also exempt from sales and use tax.

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6.26.19 Q: Can an employee quit and demand that a final paycheck is provided right away?

A: No. When an employee quits, you don’t need to pay them immediately, cut a special payroll check or make other special arrangements. Just make sure the employee receives their last paycheck no later than the next regularly scheduled payday.

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7.10.19 Q: Can an employer deduct money from a salaried employee’s check because they missed work due to jury duty?

A: Not unless the employee is gone the entire week. However, you can deduct the amount that the employee receives from the court as jury pay. Employers can require that the employee make up any lost time with other paid leave (vacation or PTO) provided that there is no lessening in the total amount received by the employee in that workweek.

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7.17.19 Q: Can teen employees use lawn mowers and weed wackers?

A: Lawnmowers and weed whackers are off-limits for 14- and 15-year-olds, but OK for 16- and 17-year-olds. They fall under the Department of Workforce Development’s category “lawn and garden equipment, including power-driven mowers or cutters and sidewalk type snow blowers.”

As with teens operating golf carts, 16- and 17-year-olds operating riding lawn mowers may not use them on public roads. In this case, both the federal and state laws are the same: yes to 16- and 17-year-olds and no to 14- and 15-year-olds.

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7.24.19 Q: Can a 20-year-old employee who is a licensed bartender close the restaurant?

A: A licensed bartender has authority at the licensed premises to sell, serve, close bar and provide supervision by virtue of his/her having the operator license and does NOT need to be 21 to do so. However, the bartender must be at least 18 years old.

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7.31.19 Q: Is it legal for the parent of a teen employee to pick up their child’s paycheck?

A: The parent is the guardian of the minor and has control over the check and can, therefore, pick up their child’s paycheck (unless the teen is an emancipated minor).

8.7.19 Q: Can an employee waive their right to be paid overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week?

A: Absolutely not! Employees cannot waive their rights to overtime. Any agreement to waive overtime pay is not legally valid.

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8.14.19 Q: Can a restaurant employee legally work seven days a week?

A: There is a Wisconsin statute that deals with this issue (103.85) that states “one day of rest in seven.” However, this statute does NOT apply to restaurants. It specifically states that a “person employed in bakeries, flour and feed mills, hotels and restaurants” is excluded.

This means that you do not have to ensure that employees get a day off each week. However, you may want to factor in possible overtime when deciding how to schedule employees.

Also, keep in mind that 14- and 15-year-old employees can only work six days a week.

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8.21.19 Q: Does Wisconsin really have a “Butter Law” or is this just urban legend?

A: There is indeed a butter law here in America’s Dairyland! Stat. 97.18(4) states, “The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer.”


You may use margarine for baking and cooking without first getting customer’s permission. However, you should be aware that the butter you put out on the table must be pure butter or a mix of individually packaged butter and margarine “reddies” (with the majority being butter).


Also, the butter must be graded via the Wisconsin grading program. Imported butter that has not gone through the DATCP grading system cannot be sold in Wisconsin. 

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8.28.19 Q: Can an employee be sent employee home earlier than the end of their shift if there isn’t enough work for them to do - and can you pay them only for the hours worked?

A: There is no minimum number of hours for which an hourly employee needs to be paid.  They need to be paid only for hours actually worked. 

According to the Department of Workforce Development, some employers pay "show up" pay as a benefit, however, it is not required. 

Keep in mind, this is an issue which may cause increased employee turnover due to frustration with your scheduling practices. 

Also, if you send employees home early too frequently, it can become an unemployment compensation benefit issue (even for part-time employees).

8.4.19 Q: How do you handle the paycheck for an employee who only worked a few days and then quit?

Answer: All wages paid to an employee, no matter the amount, must be reported to the IRS on your quarterly reports and year-end reports.  The easiest way to do this is to enter all employees and wages on your payroll.  There is nothing in the code that states that wages under a certain amount don’t need to be put on payroll; all employee’s wages should be reported on your payroll. 

As an employer, you are also required to pay the employer’s portion of social security and Medicare taxes and withhold and report the employee’s taxes:

  1. Social security and Medicare taxes on the employee's wages
  2. Federal income taxes on the employee's wages
  3. State and local taxes imposed on the employee's wages

According to information on the W-4 form, an employee who fails to provide a properly completed form will result in them “being treated as a single person who claims no withholding allowances.” 

9.11.19 Q: Does OSHA require that restaurants have a first aid kit on hand?

Answer: Yes, OSHA requires businesses to have a first aid kit on hand, however the agency does not stipulate what exactly must be included in the first aid kit. They suggest that you keep contents in a waterproof case in an easily accessible place.

Learn More/Suggested First Aid Kit Items

For Your Information

Dogs on Patios


Dogs on Patios

As warmer weather arrives, it's a good time to review the rules regarding welcoming dogs to the outside seating area of your restaurant.

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Scams Targeting Restaurants

Resourceful con artists are always coming up with new ways to fleece money from people. Some scams seem perfectly designed to take advantage of restaurant operators—since it is a restaurant owner’s nature to be a hospitable and welcome new business.

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Sick Employee Policy

Make sure your employees know that the Wisconsin Food Code requires them to inform the manager on duty if they are ill with certain types of symptoms or illnesses.

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Member Benefits


Member Benefit

Employee Engagement Playbook

The latest stats, resources, best practices, peer-to-peer advice and some budget friendly suggestions to help restaurants engage with employees and create a more positive workplace culture.

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Member Benefit

Allergen Awareness Poster

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association developed a free poster to help restaurants inform their staff and customers about food allergies.

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Member Benefit

Social Media Crisis Kit

It’s a new landscape for businesses because of the incredible power that social media wields these days. Many restaurant owners have told us that they feel unequipped to deal with these situations. 

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Chef washing hands

Member Benefit

Hand Washing

Handwashing is the most effective means of preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses and can prevent contamination of food, utensils and equipment.

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Owner and Chef Discussion

Member Benefit

Employee's Record File

WRA wants to help you get (and stay) organized and make sure you’re in compliance with recordkeeping requirements. We’ve created these personnel files as another valuable member benefit. 

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