Overtime Rights for the Food and Beverage Industry

If you work in the food and beverage industry and your employer expects you to work more than forty hours in a week, you may be entitled to overtime pay. Under both Federal and New Jersey State law, if you are a non-managerial employee such as a cook, waiter, waitress, custodian, cashier, dishwasher, host, busboy, or bartender, you have the same overtime protections as workers in other industries. This means that if you have to work more than forty hours in a week, you are entitled to overtime pay (at least 1.5 times your hourly rate) for the additional hours.

Why Workers in the Food and Beverage Industry Do Not Always Receive Overtime Pay

Unpaid overtime is common in restaurants and bars for many reasons.

– Businesses stay open longer than eight hours per day and more than five days a week.
– It’s common for rushes, parties, or weather to suddenly affect when and how often employees are required to come to work.
– The businesses themselves turn over frequently as do the workers.
– Employers often don’t know their obligations or track worker time well.
– Food and beverage industry workers often don’t know their rights or fear possible retaliation.
– Some employers simply try to evade the law.

How to Know if You Deserve Overtime Pay

If you are being asked to work more than forty hours in a week, here are five common practices where you may have the right to unpaid overtime.

**Were you asked to sign a document classifying you as an ‘independent contractor’?**

According to the Department of Labor, mislabeling an employee as an ‘independent contractor’ is one of the most common techniques used to avoid paying overtime. If your boss tells you when you work, oversees the details of your daily duties, and the quality of your work, you are not an independent contractor; you are an employee with a right to overtime.

Other signs of being misclassified as an independent contractor include:

– Your employer is your only or primary source of income.
– You’ve been supplied a uniform and/or tools for your work.
– Your job lacks a clear end date.

**Were you given a title as a ‘Manager’ or an ‘Executive’ with no change in pay or status?**

You might be flattered by the title, but if you don’t actually manage anyone, get almost the same pay, and have no say in adjusting work routines, it is possible that your title is being used to avoid overtime and other obligations. As with independent contractors, your status as a ‘manager’ is determined by the duties not the name.

– Are you asked or expected to do tasks before your official shift or
to stay late off the clock?

Prep time and cleanup are still considered work time for overtime purposes. Whether you are asked to pick up napkins on your way to work or the manager needs someone to stay to take care of a late party that tips really well, the time counts towards overtime. The same applies to being expected to stay late to finish a supposedly routine task like polishing silver, cleanup, or doing setups.

**Are hours missing or being juggled in your time card?**

If time you actually worked does not appear on your time card, it could be that your employer is trying to avoid leaving a record of going over forty hours for the week. Some employers may shift the hour from one week to the next to do this. If you work more than forty hours in a given week, you have the right to overtime for that week.

**You are told overtime must be authorized by a manager.**

If your duties are taking longer than your official shift and your employer is aware of it, the time may count as hours worked whether or not they are formally authorized.

Contact New Jersey Labor Law Attorneys

If you think you may have unpaid overtime or other possible issues with your work conditions, take action by seeking help from someone who knows the law, knows the process, and values discretion. The law firm of John J. Zidziunas & Associates has a team of New Jersey labor law attorneys available to confidentially review your case. For further information, call 973-509-8500, email info@jjzlawfirm.com, or visit http://employmentdiscrimination.com/.

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