Like any other business, restaurants need to take into account many legal issues when managing their operations. They may want to learn about the regulations regarding a restaurant entrance vestibule in their state or get online employment law advice.

This article will help you with the latter: the restaurant employment law and its basics. The topic is especially urgent now, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that there has been an increase in restaurant employment recently. Since the restaurant industry is awakening from the pandemic, entrepreneurs start to face numerous issues of how to hire an employee for a restaurant.

Employment Rules Restaurant Owners Should Know

There are numerous restaurant laws and regulations to consider when managing employees. However, we would like to especially highlight those mentioned in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Here is what you, as a restaurant owner, should consider:

Minimum Wage and Tips

The ultimate rule to know about a minimum wage is that it varies from state to state. Therefore, you should check the regulations that are applied to you. According to the law, restaurant workers get paid not less than the minimum wage.

However, how does the law work if the federal minimum wage is higher than the state’s? In such a case, you should take a federal one as a benchmark. The general rule is that employees are entitled to the higher rate, regardless it’s a federal or state’s one.

As for the tips, some states indicate a lower minimum wage for servers because they receive tips. This is referred to as the “tipped minimum wage”, which rates you can learn from The US Department of Labor website.

Another popular confusing issue about tips is their allocation among employees. Some workers choose to keep what they gained to themselves, while others pool the tips and divide equally among all.  Here, however, you, as an employer, have no word: it’s up to employees to decide.

Overtime Work

According to the FLSA, any employee should work no more than 40 hours per week. All the additional hours are to be paid extra. The rate is 1.5, calculated based on the set employee’s wage. It means that if your cook receives $12 per hour, his/her wage would be $18 for every extra hour.

You can’t pay a normal wage for overtime: it would be a violation of the restaurant employee rights. Therefore, it’s advisable to minimize overtime as it can significantly undermine your bankroll.


When dealing with minors, you should be extremely careful. Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

  • The number of hours a minor can work varies from state to state.
  • Minor can’t take all the positions: the regulations, again, depending on the state.
  • Always check the age of the minor since it determines which type of job he can do. For example, in some states, a minor can work as soon as he is 15, but he can’t take knives for any reason until the age of 17.

Of course, hiring minors is a reasonable solution, especially for seasonal work: their pay is lower; therefore, you can cut employment costs. Just make sure there are no restaurant labor law breaks.


Immigrants often choose the restaurant industry at the beginning of their careers in the USA. While this is also a lucrative opportunity for employers to cut costs, there are some things to consider.

The ultimate factor to check is work eligibility. Otherwise, you may face severe legal consequences for illegal hiring. By the way, the employee will be subject to the punishment as well.


Harassment is primarily connected with the previous point – immigrants. Racial harassment, unfortunately, is becoming a significant problem that restaurants also face. This addresses both employees and guests.

Considering that there are going to appear many more new harassment-related laws, entrepreneurs should rethink their policies and set up restaurant rules and regulations for employee to follow.

In particular, the policies should cover the reporting procedure. All the employees must immediately report to the manager or owner if the incident occurs. Every incident should be investigated and resolved. In order to minimize their number, we recommend holding educational sessions for employees regarding the issue from time to time.

All in all, restaurant employment law is complicated: there are too many things and exceptions to consider. Alongside this, the regulations often vary from state to state. Therefore, we advise you to consult a local employment lawyer.

The specialist can help you with any issue. Do restaurants have to feed employees? When they have to provide breaks, and for how long? Or any other question you have.

Have you ever consulted a lawyer? Please, share your experience with us.


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