Wage Theft Among Restaurant Workers in NYC

What are my legal rights if I believe my employer is committing wage theft?

Wage theft is the illegal practice of not paying employees for their work. It can involve not paying employees overtime, violating minimum wage laws, taking employee tips, and more. Workers in the restaurant industry are particularly at risk because they are mostly tipped employees and thus legally allowed to be paid far less per hour. In New York City, wage theft is an all too common practice, one that disproportionately affects minorities and can cripple families.

Restaurant Workers Are At Risk of Wage Theft

At the federal level, employers are allowed to pay tipped workers just $2.13 per hour, so long as their hourly wage plus their tips equates to $7.25 per hour. The pay discrepancy leaves restaurant workers at risk because it becomes easy for employers to withhold tips or take tips for their own benefit. New York City has set a higher minimum wage for tipped employees, but it remains far less than the legal minimum for non-tipped workers. Currently, tipped workers in NYC must make $8.65 per hour, while other employees must be paid $13 an hour.

Recognizing the potential dangers of differing hourly wages for tipped and non-tipped employees, New York legislators are considering taking action. Hearings will be held next week to assess whether the state should take action to require employers pay tipped employees the same minimum wage as required of any other employee. While the restaurant industry has protested, many feel this is the only way to fully protect employees most at risk of wage theft.

Your Rights As a Victim of Wage Theft

Wage theft is a federal and state crime. Restaurant workers can protect themselves against wage theft by first educating themselves as to their legal rights. Restaurant workers need to understand that they are likely entitled to overtime pay if they work over 40 hours per week. Further, workers cannot be charged for uniforms. Tips cannot be forced to go towards non-service employees. Violations of any of these laws may constitute wage theft.

If you believe your employer is committing wage theft, contact a wage and hour claims attorney. Your lawyer will review the actions of your employer to determine whether you have a viable cause of action. If successful, you could receive back pay and other damages to compensate you for your employer’s wage theft. Contact us today if you believe you are a victim of wage theft.