Understanding Side Work Laws for Restaurant Employees: Your Essential Guide

 In Overtime Law, Wage Law

What Every Server and Bartender Should Know About FLSA Side Work Laws

For servers, bartenders, and the broader restaurant community, ‘side work’ is a familiar term. It encompasses those behind-the-scenes tasks, aside from the main role of serving or bartending. But, how many of these duties align with what an employer is lawfully allowed to require servers to perform under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? As champions of employee rights, we’re offering insights into the often-misunderstood side work laws that govern when a restaurant may require you to perform side work, and more importantly, how the time a restaurant may lawfully require you to perform side work. 

Tipped Employees and Side Work Demystified

limitations on side work duties for restaurant workers

The FLSA permits employers to pay a subminimum wage to tipped personnel, expecting tips to bridge the gap to the standard minimum wage. However, FLSA’s stance on side work is clear: an employer may not allow its tipped employees (i.e. servers, bartenders, and other front-of-the-house staff) to spend more than 20% of their time engaging in side tasks. If an employer violates this clear directive, the employer will retroactively lose the benefit of the subminimum hourly wage. In other words, the employer is required to pay you the full minimum wage for all hours worked.

Before we move on, it is important to note the 20% limitation applies to related side work tasks. More specifically, an employer may not require you to perform any unrelated side work tasks. Regardless of the total time spent engaged in unrelated tasks, your employer is required to pay you the full minimum wage for all time spent engaged in any such tasks that are unrelated to your job as a server.  


Spotting Illegal Side Work: Basic Examples of Unlawful Side Work

  • Deep Cleaning Assignments: If a ‘cleaning day’ at your establishment involves extensive cleaning with a mere $2.13 hourly tip wage, it’s unlawful. Such tasks don’t align with direct serving or bartending roles.
  • Early Bird Preparations: Scheduled early, before the restaurant buzz begins? Spending hours on setups, furniture arrangements, and more while being paid the tipped wage doesn’t cut it under FLSA, especially when there’s no customer in sight.
  • Closing Tasks: Extensive post-closing chores, from dismantling the bar to kitchen clean-ups, shouldn’t stretch beyond the 20% threshold. Direct tip-earning tasks should dominate, not these end-of-day duties.

Navigating the Interplay: State Laws vs. FLSA

Always remember: FLSA is the baseline. When state laws offer more comprehensive employee benefits (be it a higher wage or stringent side work rules), they prevail. Put simply, the more employee-centric rule always wins. For instance, if state regulations are tighter around side work or advocate for a superior minimum wage, they supersede FLSA norms.

The realm of side work can be complex, but as restaurant employees, it’s paramount to grasp your rights, benchmarked against both FLSA and state laws. By mastering these, you champion fair wages and lawful work standards. Facing undue side work at low wages? Know that avenues for recourse exist, ensuring your diligence isn’t undervalued.

Knowledge is Power: Your Side Work Rights Unveiledside work limitations for restaurant workers

As a server or restaurant worker who earns tips for a living, it is incredibly important for you to familiarize yourself with knowledge about your rights. Contacting an experienced worker’s rights attorney who has experience representing employees in the service industry is an important first line of defense in protecting your wages.

If you believe your employer is contravening the laws regarding nontipped duties, it’s time to stand up for your rights. If you believe your rights have been violated, the employee rights attorneys at Herrmann Law are ready to fight for your cause. Feel free to call us at (817) 479-9229 or submit your information to us online for review and someone from our office will contact you within 1 business day.

Workers Rights Attorneys

Stand Up for Your Rights and Do not Become a Victim of Performing Excessive Side Work

At Herrmann Law, we are committed to supporting and empowering servers. If you’re a server and are faced with an employer who requires you to perform a seemingly never ending list of nontipped duties and side work, we encourage you to contact us to learn more about your rights by calling 817-479-9229 or submitting your information to us online for review.

We’re more than a law firm – through our tireless advocacy and legal representation for servers and bartenders, we are empowering servers and bartenders across the country. #EmpoweringServers #SideWork #ServersRights #FLSA #FairWages #RestaurantLaws




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