Most people in Tennessee think they would know if someone were stealing from them. However, some thieves are slick and prey on those who may be vulnerable or lack the knowledge to realize they have been victimized. Wage theft is one example of stealing that is often too subtle to be recognized as theft, and the workers who are most often victims are those in food services.
Despite paying millions in fines and lawsuit settlements, some in the restaurant industry continue to violate their employees’ right to fair wages. While these employers may not be blatantly withholding checks or deducting hours from time sheets, they take other steps to deny workers the wages they deserve. Some employers avoid paying their workers for work-related jobs, such as cleaning their uniforms, preparing their stations or cleaning equipment at the end of the shift. Others misclassify their workers to prevent their eligibility for earning overtime rates.
Perhaps one of the most controversial issues related to wage theft in food services is who owns the tips customers leave for servers. Workers who receive tips can earn as little as $2.13 an hour base pay assuming their tips will bring them to a minimum wage. However, some employers take advantage of this by pooling tips for back-of-house workers to avoid paying them minimum wage. This leaves room for many errors and miscalculations, few of which err in favor of the employee.
Tennessee workers who feel their employers are committing wage theft are often reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation. However, they have the right to the pay they have earned, and the law protects that right. Those whose employers are paying them unfairly may wish to consult with an attorney for advice on the best course of action for seeking justice.