Hospitality providers rely on maintaining good relationships with their customers. If you work at a restaurant, bar, hotel, or leisure establishment, you may spend a large chunk of your work time tending to the needs and desires of customers. You expect to be treated fairly and paid what you are entitled to receive. In many cases, however, hospitality industry employers fail to comply with federal, state, or local anti-discrimination standards, or they may pay their employees under the table, resulting in significant wage and hour violations. The New York City employment attorneys at the Arcé Law Group can help hospitality industry workers with claims arising out of discrimination and harassment, wage and hour issues, unlawful termination and retaliation, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), among others.Hospitality Industry Claims
Some of the most common legal claims in the hospitality industry involve wage and hour and overtime issues that arise out of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or state labor laws. Under the FLSA, tipped employees are workers who customarily and regularly get more than $30 each month in tips. Often, workers in the hospitality industry rely on tips. It is illegal for an employer to use your tips for any reason other than taking a tip credit against its minimum wage obligations to you or to further a valid tip pool. The minimum required cash wage that must be paid to tipped employees is $2.13. The maximum tip credit under the FLSA is $5.12 per hour. There are certain instances in which an employer may also claim an overtime tip credit against its obligation to pay you overtime.
Another issue that may arise in the hospitality industry is the misclassification of workers, particularly trainees or interns who should be classified as employees. Companies sometimes bring interns into the workplace in order to get free or lower-cost labor. They also may misclassify a worker as an independent contractor to avoid compliance with labor laws. When workers are misclassified, they may not be paid minimum wage or overtime. Workers who are actually employees rather than interns or independent contractors may be entitled to backpay under the FLSA.
Discrimination may also be a significant problem in workplaces in the hospitality industry. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of certain protected categories. For example, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, or color. Employers covered by Title VII include private sector employees with 50 or more employees. State or local laws often cover smaller companies.
Sometimes discrimination may be intentional or overt, but often it is indirect, occurring in the implementation of apparently neutral policies. In a disparate impact claim, an employee needs to prove that a neutral policy or practice has a disproportionate negative effect on members of a protected class. For example, some hospitality employers use background checks and a screening process to hire employees. Blanket criminal background checks may disparately affect job applicants of certain races, and when that is the case, it may be the basis of a race discrimination claim.
Hospitality industry workers are also at risk of sexual harassment from customers, supervisors, and coworkers. Sexual harassment may include sexually offensive jokes, unwanted touching, sexual acts that have been coerced or requests for sexual favors, displays of pornographic images in the workplace, comments about a person's sexual preferences or gender, and sexual gestures. Single incidents of harassment are rarely actionable, unless the harassment is truly egregious. However, harassment may be the basis of a lawsuit if it is so severe or permeates the workplace so much that it creates a hostile work environment. It is also illegal if an employer conditions an employment action, such as a promotion or termination, on submitting to the unwelcome sexual conduct.Contact a Knowledgeable Employment Attorney in New York City
Bryan Arcé has an extensive background in the culinary field, and he understands the complexities of the employer-employee relationship in the hospitality industry. The New York City employment lawyers at the Arcé Law Group can help you file a hospitality industry claim. We represent workers in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and we also have offices in Newark and Philadelphia, from which we can serve employees in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Call us at 212-248-0120 or use our online form to set up a free appointment if you need a wage law attorney or assistance with another type of employment claim.