CSI HR: The Case of the 13-Inch Blade (Restaurant Compliance)

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

A Restaurant Compliance Case

Warning: The following contains disturbing accounts of restaurant compliance crimes. Reader discretion is advised.

Crime Scene: Beau’s Beachside Pizza, Subs and Smoothies

Life isn’t a day at the beach when you uncover nefarious restaurant compliance violations. Beau’s Beachside Pizza, Subs and Smoothies has become a local landmark. It opened in 1998 in a small converted bungalow. It started with four tables and a counter. The owners added onto the original building every few years. In 2012, they built a 4,000 square foot facility with inside and outside dining.

Allegation #1 Child Labor Hazardous Duty

In 2017, the parents of a 16-year-old employee registered a complaint. They contacted the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The employee had told her mother about cleaning the razor-sharp meat slicer. They learned that the manager asked one of the employees to clean the commercial slicer. This happened every night. The person cleaning the machine had to remove the blade for cleaning. Then, the employee had to reassemble the machine.

Exhibit A: Binford 13″ Commercial Meat Slicer with Removable Blade

The minor’s parents accused Beau’s of violating child labor hazardous duty protections. At Beau’s, managers routinely asked underage employees to clean the equipment. The diciest duty was cleaning the meat slicer.

Allegation #2 Employer Failed to Pay Minimum Wage To Tipped Employees

When the WHD launched an investigation, they uncovered evidence of more crimes. The first one involved tip pooling.

As with many restaurants, servers at Beau’s earn tips from guests. They pool the tips and split between servers, bussers, and kitchen workers. Servers and bussers at Beau’s are paid less than minimum wage. Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the tips should bridge the gap between the hourly wage and legal minimum wage. When tips fall short – as is often the case on weekdays – the employer is supposed to make up the difference.

Allegation #3 Employers Deducted Money for Uniforms From Employees’ Pay

The FLSA prohibits employers from deducting the cost of uniforms. The employer must pay for any uniforms they require employees to wear.

Exhibit B: Beau’s Employee Uniform

Beau’s employees are required to wear Hawaiian shirts with the restaurant logo and a white apron that must be replaced every few months when the stains can’t be bleached out.

Allegation #4 Employer Failed to Maintain Payroll Records

Beau’s played it fast and loose with payroll. The checks weren’t issued on a predictable schedule. Tips often weren’t recorded. They usually didn’t send W-2 forms until late February. And the owner occasionally paid employees in cash. Needless to say, the recordkeeping was similarly haphazard.

Verdict: Beau’s Beachside Pizza, Subs and Smoothies fined $22,907

The court found the employer guilty of all allegations. Beau’s Beachside Pizza Subs and Smoothies paid a civil penalty of $22,907 which included back wages to 17 employees.

How Do I Avoid Restaurant Compliance Violations?

Are you a restaurant owner? Are you looking for the best way to maintain restaurant compliance?

The solution is WorkforceHub from Swipeclock. WorkforceHub is a unified HR portal that automates and streamlines wage and hour compliance. Swipeclock has been helping restaurant owners manage employee time and labor since 2001.

WorkforceHub includes:

  • Time and Attendance
  • Scheduling
  • Hiring and Applicant Tracking
  • Onboarding
  • PTO Management
  • Benefit Enrollment
  • Mobile Timekeeping App
  • Document Management
  • Metrics and Reporting
  • Employee Self Service (ESS)

Employee Profiles Guide Scheduling

Many FLSA violations can be avoided with a smart scheduling tool that tracks employee profiles. With WorkforceHub, managers input ages and certifications for employees. Then they create shift rules using the settings. For example, they can require at least two employees 18 years or older per shift. This would ensure an adult was there to clean the meat slicer. The extra adult is protection against one calling in sick.

If they attempt to staff a shift without two adults, the system will alert them. This helps busy managers make sure all shifts have an employee over 18. Adults are lawfully able to perform potentially hazardous duties. Employers can also track certifications such as food handler’s permits or manufacturer-required equipment training.

What’s The Best Way To Create an Employee Handbook?

You can’t expect employees to follow rules if they don’t know them. Educating employees begins when they are hired. A well-written employee handbook helps with restaurant compliance. WorkforceHub makes it easy to create and maintain a good handbook. During onboarding, administrators include a link to the handbook in the digital new hire packet. New hires can read company policies and verify their agreement and understanding with e-signature. This helps protects both employees and employers.

Employee Dashboard Restaurant Compliance Reminders

With WorkforceHub, employees clock in with a web portal or in a mobile app. The employer posts policy reminders on the main dashboard next to the clock. Daily reminders help employees remember rules.

During shifts, all employees (over and under 18) know the company policies –especially critical safety rules.

Of course, employees break rules occasionally. If an employee violates a rule, the signature verification gives the employer some legal protection. If the DOL investigates, at least they can show that employees were trained on policies.

How To Record Employee Tips

Restaurant owners need to understand state and federal tip laws. For example, managers are usually not allowed to take money from the tip pool. In most states, it is generally okay to split tips among back-of-house and front-of-house employees.

With WorkforceHub, you can set custom prompts at punch in or punch out. This allows employees to input job codes, work group information, mileage or tips. The timekeeping app sends a tip alert when the employee clocks out. WorkforceHub also tracks multiple pay rates which helps employers apply the correct rate to tipped employees. This helps organizations avoid minimum wage violations.

The Easiest Way To Keep Payroll Records: WorkforceHub Automated Recordkeeping

WorkforceHub captures punches and creates timecards. If the DOL audits your company, you can run a time and labor report for any pay period. The report shows employee hours worked, shift schedules and other pertinent data.

A DOL violation can bring an expensive fine. Some small businesses can’t survive a typical penalty. To get an idea of the fines, visit the newsroom on the DOL website. A buffet restaurant was recently fined $150,000 and a Mexican restaurant was fined $203,000.

Protect your restaurant with WorkforceHub from Swipeclock.

Note: The preceding story is true. However, names, locations, and other details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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