Wage Violations Hurt Fast Food Workers

In October 2015, four Papa John’s franchises agreed to compensate its New York workers to over $500,000 in a settlement. The owners admitted to violating federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

Other companies, such as Chik-Fil-A, haven’t been very fair towards their employees either, as a notorious union-buster, the Southern fast-food franchise has often deprived its own employees the right to organize. Its hourly wages are incredibly low, according to Glassdoor. On average, cashiers make $8.27 per hour, while kitchen staff makes only $.10 more.

Another troubling aspect of the chain restaurant is allegations it hasn’t paid employees for training sessions, taking out the trash, and other work on the “side.”

Learn more about how you can fight back against your employer for cheating you from your hard-earned paycheck.

If you feel that your employer is violating their requirement to pay you what you deserve or violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you should contact us for a Free Case Evaluation. We would be honored to speak with you and will respond promptly to every inquiry we receive.

How can employees fight back?

Some businesses use accounting tricks to skim money from their employees, but based on the current climate of the fast-food industry, many will just flat out deny their employees wages or overtime pay. That is a direct violation of the FLSA, which:

  • Defines the federally-mandated minimum wage
  • Outlines who can make overtime pay and at what rate (1.5 times your regular wage for all hours worked over 40)
  • Outlaws most forms of child labor

The FLSA is also clear that all workers in the United States must be paid for the work they perform – every bit of it. If the business expects to benefit from your labor and [should] be aware that you’re doing it, that is work that needs to be paid.

Not all employers follow federal law, an unfortunate circumstance. Major corporations get away with wage violations. They might expect that their employees aren’t going to know the difference, especially when they entrust their boss to take care of their paycheck accordingly.

The US Department of Labor has a difficult time penalizing businesses within the restaurant industry because there are legal intricacies of franchising.

Many fast-food workers have had to file civil lawsuits against their employers if they ever hope to recoup wages lost.

Making millions off the labor of employees

From failing to pay workers at least the minimum wage to denying overtime, this is, unfortunately, a common practice in the industry.

In 2009, researchers at the National Employment Law Project found that 25 percent of restaurant workers were victimized by wage theft. This includes violations at both the state and federal level in regard to labor laws.

Nearly 70 percent of restaurant workers were affected by at least one overtime violation during the week they were surveyed.

Working “off the clock”

Three out of four employees who were polled in the survey had unwillingly participated in this practice. “Off the clock” violations are widespread throughout the industry. This is when employees perform job duties either before or after their scheduled shift ends, but don’t get paid for it.

One area where the lines are sometimes blurred is when it comes to the definition of “working.” For example, training sessions is one are where the distinction needs to be well-defined. Training sessions, including those that were taken online, count as worked hours. Employees should be compensated and paid for their time. However, it does not count if the training session is voluntarily taken by the worker and covers material unrelated to their job.

Employees should be compensated for brewing coffee, sorting condiments, taking out the trash. If it is work, it needs to be paid for.

Franchise Status

Federal regulators are trying to make it easier for wronged employees to sue their immediate boss rather than the corporation. A common practice is to consider fast food restaurants a “franchise,” which gives corporate offices a slight immunity from federal wage and hour claims.

However, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that workers in franchise restaurants are actually “jointly employed” by the company that owns it. They work, essentially, for the franchisee and the parent company. This means the companies may be liable for labor violations.

Federal regulators may be in for an easier time when it comes to going after labor investigations. For quite some time franchises have made investigating wage violations difficult because they separated the franchise from the parent company. Labor Department officials then had to investigate individual franchises, which is both daunting and time-consuming.

This practice has never held corporate culture accountable to employee wages, overtime, and labor violations. The only time parent companies have entered into the picture is when hard evidence of systemic wrongdoing is present.

For example, in 2014 Subway committed nearly 17,000 confirmed federal wage law violations between 2000 and 2013. At the time, and prior to cleaning up its practice alongside the Department of Labor, Subway had more violations than McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts.

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