Violations of Overtime Laws in the Hospitality Industry

Since 1938, US labor law has been governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is also known as the Wages and Hours Bill. Not only does this statute govern issues such as minimum wage and the employment of minors, it also enforces a 40-hour workweek, with overtime being paid at one and a half times regular pay.

These overtime laws are in place to ensure that workers are being paid fairly for their work, and are not being exploited by their employers. However, some employers violate these laws in order to avoid paying more in wages, and unfortunately this is nowhere more prevalent than in the hospitality industry.

Those working in the hospitality industry include restaurant, bar and hotel workers, and often those being exploited will be low-wage employees who are either uninformed about their rights, or who are worried about speaking out for fear of losing their jobs.

It is a great shame that these violations are so common in the industry, especially as those low-wage workers who are more vulnerable to exploitation are often also those who are in dire need of the money. Laws and rights apply to everyone, from bankers to cocktail waitresses, and if you are entitled to overtime pay – you should receive it.

Thankfully, the Department of Labor (DOL) has recognized the problem, and has been conducting an ongoing initiative in order to crack down on the hospitality industry as a ‘high-risk’ of noncompliance. In fact, just last year the DOL announced several five figured settlements that hotel and motel employers had to pay out thanks to their failure to pay overtime.

It should be noted that the government can penalize companies for failing to pay overtime, for example by imposing stiff fines or even imprisonment. Under the FLSA, any employer who violates overtime laws may be liable for both shortfall and liquidated damages, meaning they could end up paying double the damages. With that as a risk, doesn’t it make sense for employers to pay the initial overtime that their workers are entitled to?

One area of confusion is knowing who is qualified for overtime, as different kinds of workers may be “exempt” from receiving overtime. For example, independent contractors are not entitled to overtime pay, nor are most executive level employees. However, within the hospitality industry for employees such as bus boys, cocktail waitresses, and concierges, it is highly likely that you are entitled to overtime pay.

If you work in the hospitality industry and have not been receiving your overtime pay, you are legally entitled to claim back these wages. Know your rights and make sure you’re not being exploited. There are limited deadlines for filing a complaint or lawsuit for these types of claims. The law firm of John J. Zidziunas & Associates has an experienced team of New York and New Jersey Overtime Lawyers who know and understand your rights. For further information, please feel free to call us at 973-509-8500, email, or visit our webpage at