If you own a restaurant in New York City, understanding the most important restaurant workers’ rights is essential. From minimum wage and shift duration laws to guidance on breaks and tip regulations, you have to be diligent in following the rules and protecting your employees’ rights.
The 10 Most Important Restaurant Workers’ Rights in NYC
As workers’ rights continue to evolve and change, restaurant owners and employees need to become more aware of their rights, so we can uphold them. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Minimum Wage
New York State minimum wage for restaurant workers is $15 per hour. There are exceptions to this rule: restaurant workers who receive tips have an hourly wage of $10.00, and there are lower wage thresholds for employees who receive free meals or lodging as part of their salary.
Employers can satisfy the minimum wage requirement by combining a cash wage paid by the employer with a credit for tips (maximum of $5 per hour) the employee receives from customers.
NYC also proposed a minimum pay rate for app-based restaurant delivery workers. Watch this to learn more:
2. Overtime Pay
All restaurant workers in New York City who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid overtime wages at a rate of one and one-half times their regular wage. It’s a misconception that tipped workers don’t have a right to receive overtime. All employees are entitled to overtime.
However, unlike states like Alaska and California, restaurant workers aren’t entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a single work day or more than 12 hours like in Colorado. Neglecting this law falls under wage theft, which is a common problem in the United States.
3. Safe and Healthy Workplace
All restaurant workers have the right to work in an environment that’s free of health and safety hazards. If a hazard becomes present (i.e., a wet floor), employers should provide the necessary equipment and training to either remove the hazard or evacuate the restaurant.
You may be eligible for compensation cover if you suffer an on-the-job injury. Contact a local and reliable workplace injury law firm such as Nappa, Monterosso & Poznansky, LLP, for example, to discuss your options.
4. Food Safety
Employers must ensure their workers are trained in food safety standards. In New York, the Department of Agriculture and Markets oversees the requirements for food safety, which include preventative measures such as training, proper temperature control, and optimal sanitation.
Employers must also provide gloves and other equipment to protect workers from coming into contact with food that can cause contamination, either to themselves or their customers. A yearly restaurant/food inspector should check the building for any health and safety violations.
5. Shift Duration
Restaurant workers in New York State, though excluded from some overtime pay protections, do have a legal right to eight-hour shift breaks. These requirements are meant to preserve both the health and safety of workers and should be offered to all employees at all times.
Shift lengths may be extended, but employers must post their schedules two weeks in advance. Also, any employee working more than four hours should receive a 30-minute work break.
6. Tip Regulations
There are strict rules that employers must follow in order to maintain a fair system. Employers cannot deduct wages from a worker’s paycheck to pay for customers’ tips, and they also cannot use contributions to charity campaigns as a way to supplement their employees’ wages.
Any compensation received by workers must be at least the minimum wage set out by the state, regardless of how tips are distributed. Managers have no right to take other employees’ tips. However, other employees can participate in tip sharing and tip pooling in some circumstances. Read this for more info about the tip regulations in NY.
7. Leave Rights
An employer cannot prevent a worker from taking vacation time when it has been earned, either through payment or gratis. Furthermore, any worker who has been injured or is ill is legally entitled to take leave for an extended period of time without the fear of suspension or job loss.
New York Sick Leave Law states that businesses with at least 5 employees must provide each employee with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, regardless of their job title or pay.
8. Right to Organize
All New York City employees, whether they’re already a part of a union or not, have the right to organize and join together to discuss or settle work-related issues. They also have the right to be represented by a union if they so choose, but this choice is left up to a democratic vote.
Employers cannot discriminate against, threaten, or take action against employees for talking about workplace conditions, including wage discussions or organizing in the form of protest. If one or more employees are let go due to the threat of organizing, they can seek legal recourse.
9. Health Insurance
Businesses with 50 or more employees must offer health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and many busy restaurants will eclipse this number. With that said, even if health insurance coverage isn’t required, employers will receive many benefits if they decide to sign up.
Not only will they have happier, healthier employees, but restaurant owners will also receive tax deductions and credits. Employees also get tax benefits if they pay a portion of their insurance.
10. No Harassment or Discrimination
New York State Law protects workers against harassment or discrimination based on their race, age, creed, national origin, color, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, sex, military status, disability, familial status, predisposed genetic characteristics, or current marital status.
It’s also illegal in NYC for employers to judge an individual based on their status as a victim of domestic violence, sincerely held practice of religion, and arrest record or conviction record. There are several other categories in which an employer cannot judge another individual.
Being aware of the most important restaurant workers’ rights in New York City is crucial for employers. Understanding and following the rules laid out by the state will make sure that you are providing your employees with the protection they need and ensuring legal compliance.
When you create a workspace that’s both safe and fair, you can rest assured that your employees will be productive and satisfied. And who doesn’t want happy restaurant workers?
Fallon Chan is a food and lifestyle photographer and blogger.