Wage Theft and Georgia Restaurant Workers: Your Questions Answered

You may not think of it in terms of stealing, but you may be unknowingly facing a situation of theft if you’re not receiving the wages to which you’re entitled as an employee. In a recent article entitled “The Problem of Wage Theft,” published by the Yale Law & Policy Review, wage theft is what results when employers don’t pay the proper amount for minimum wage or overtime. The implications are especially serious for restaurant workers, who generally fall under wage and hour rules for tipped employees.

The rules can be complicated as they pertain to any employee, which is why many workers don’t understand their rights – and why many employers are able to get away with wage theft. A Georgia wage and hour disputes lawyer can provide specific information based upon your unique situation, but some answers to frequently asked questions may be helpful.

What is wage theft? The US Fair Labor Standards Act establishes a range of employment-related regulations, including those covering minimum wage, hours, overtime, and more. The basic federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for most workers, but the rules establish a rate of $2.13 per hour for those who earn a portion of their salary through tips. Many restaurant employees are covered by the lower amount. Wage theft occurs when an employer doesn’t comply with the wage regulations, especially stealing money from the employee.

Why are Georgia restaurant workers and other tipped employees at risk of wage theft? This form of misconduct is more rampant in the restaurant industry because of the regulations on tipped employees under the FLSA. If you don’t make at least the minimum federal wage of $7.25 per hour with your tips, your employer must make up the difference. That puts the burden on your employer, but complicated formulas and a lack of follow-up means many tipped employees don’t get the extra pay to boost their income to minimum wage. 

How do Georgia restaurant employers get away with wage theft? To put it bluntly, they do because they can. Employees may not realize they’re being taken advantage of, such as when employers:

  • Don’t pay minimum wage for work that’s unrelated to making tips, such as paying the $2.13 hourly rate for side work or cleaning;
  • Refusing to pay for overtime;
  • Not providing meal or rest breaks; or,
  • Making you work off the clock.

What can I do if my employer engages in wage theft? If you detect inconsistencies or see an unexpected reduction in your pay, you should contact an employment law attorney right away. You may qualify to recover your back pay, plus interest and other damages for your employer’s violation of wage and hour laws. 

Discuss Your Rights with a Georgia Wage and Hour Law Attorney

For answers to additional questions and information on wage theft, please contact the Vaughn Law Firm. We can set up a no-cost, confidential consultation with one of our skilled Georgia employment lawyers, who can review your circumstances and explain options for enforcing your rights. Our office handles all types of employment matters for clients in DeKalb, Fulton, and Cobb Counties, and throughout the surrounding region.