No more family meals

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Joined May 30, 2015
The restaurant I work at announced today that there would be no more family meals. We didn't have the traditional table-based family meals - just a one free meal per day policy. Everyone either cooked their own meal or each clique or team would make enough for its members (3-5 people) and it was always eaten while working - not so much a lunch break as just 5-10 minutes to hurriedly eat a bit.

I've had to bring my own lunch at every other job I've had, so this normally wouldn't bother me. But what bothers me about the decision is that I, an hourly employee, will no longer be compensated for my legal right to 30 uninterrupted minutes for every 6 hours I work. According to the law here, after 6 hours, I'm entitled to either a 30 minute break (off-the-clock) or 1 hour of pay at time-and-a-half. I normally work 8-10 hours a day (40-50 hours a week), but get neither OT compensation nor a true rest period except for bathroom & water breaks. I was always able to overlook this though because I got a free meal of more or less equal value to the OT I was due.

I get that, at a certain point, family meals can start cutting into your margins. But, now it's reached the point that I'm getting zero compensation for my legally-entitled lunch break. I feel like if I complained to management, they'd just start sending us all home after 6 hours and my pay would go down by 10-15 hours a week, and I'm certainly in no position to risk my job filing a complaint with the labor board. But this seriously pisses me off.

I also feel like I'm probably the only one at the restaurant who even has enough sense to realize how much they're screwing us. Most of my co-workers are either not the best & brightest (certainly not the types who would understand concepts that require critical thinking) or are illegal immigrants who are just thankful they're not getting deported.

I just needed to get this off of my chest.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
As an owner, I always made sure my kitchen staff were well fed. I factored the cost of their meals into my overhead and distributed it accordingly throughout my revenue streams.

Having said that, you have two choices here. 1) find another place to work; or 2) file the complaint.

If you go with choice #1, problem solved.

If you go with choice #2, you are going to fight a battle based on principle that will never result in any form of victory whatsoever. Even if you win, you lose. Regardless of the outcome, you will be forever branded as "that person" who filed the labor law complaint. The city or town that you work in will be dead for you. Its not worth it......not when you can easily find another employer that abides by the law and pays their employees fairly.

Good luck! :)
 
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Joined Apr 11, 2018
IMO unless the owner or manager is planning to spend all of his/her time watching the kitchen, there's going to be grazing in lieu of controlled free meals. For that type of shrinkage and similar, often by providing a method within the rules, such as the one free meal a day, people will follow it and management has some control over it instead of it being completely forbidden and thus completely out of mgt's control. But I guess that's for your restaurant's management to learn the hard way.

For you, it always burns me up when I hear about owners and/or management taking advantage of their staff, particularly when they cross legal lines. It's a form of abuse. In your place I'd be looking around for a better place to land. Doesn't mean you'll find something but it doesn't hurt to look, if you keep it on the QT.
 

pete

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Joined Oct 7, 2001
I'm not going to comment on the family meal issue, although that is what this thread is supposedly about, but I am going to comment on some of the illegal things your boss is doing. Unless you are salaried-non exempt, your place of employment is legally required to pay you OT. This is regardless of whatever other "benefits" they offer you. Secondly, many states don't require businesses to give employees 30 unpaid breaks, and many other states only require it for certain types of jobs. But, if you are one of those states that does actually require it, then again your boss is doing something illegal. And, if he doesn't mind doing those illegal things, what other things is doing, or would do, that are also illegal. Sorry, but that isn't a place I really want to work at, because one day you are going to come to work to find the place shuttered and locked by the sheriff because the dude wasn't paying his taxes or something else and you will be out of a job, with no prospects in sight.
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
That sucks. Do they expect you to work 8-10 hours with nothing to eat? Are you supposed to bring something to eat and what...eat it on the line? What meal policy did they put in place to replace the staff meal policy from before? Working that long without food is BS, you need to be afforded an opportunity to eat something...how are you supposed to have energy for a whole shift?

Morale must suck at that place.

I agree with everyone else, start looking for another job. Does this job offer any compelling reason to stay?

When they ask you why you are quitting make sure you tell them.
 
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Joined May 30, 2015
If you go with choice #2, you are going to fight a battle based on principle that will never result in any form of victory whatsoever. Even if you win, you lose. Regardless of the outcome, you will be forever branded as "that person" who filed the labor law complaint. The city or town that you work in will be dead for you. Its not worth it......not when you can easily find another employer that abides by the law and pays their employees fairly.

Good luck! :)

Definitely agree - it'd be cutting my nose off to spite my face.

IMO unless the owner or manager is planning to spend all of his/her time watching the kitchen, there's going to be grazing in lieu of controlled free meals. For that type of shrinkage and similar, often by providing a method within the rules, such as the one free meal a day, people will follow it and management has some control over it instead of it being completely forbidden and thus completely out of mgt's control. But I guess that's for your restaurant's management to learn the hard way..

The dumbest part is that one of their reasons for doing this to limit grazing...

Unless you are salaried-non exempt, your place of employment is legally required to pay you OT.

I do get OT for 40+ hours (thankfully) - just not the OT in lieu of a lunch break. in Tennessee, only salaried or tipped employees are exempt from the 6-hour rule (I'm neither). So, yes, technically they've been violating the law already, it's just never been a big ordeal until now.

That sucks. Do they expect you to work 8-10 hours with nothing to eat? Are you supposed to bring something to eat and what...eat it on the line? What meal policy did they put in place to replace the staff meal policy from before? Working that long without food is BS, you need to be afforded an opportunity to eat something...how are you supposed to have energy for a whole shift?

Theoretically, as we were initially instructed, no food at all. Some of us complained loud enough and got permission to eat something light (a sandwich, more or less) in the manager's office, but only those few of us who were willing to stand up for ourselves.

I plan to start looking for a new job tomorrow. The only thing that's kept me there so far is that it's full time day shift - but after a certain point that incentive only goes so far.
 
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Good companies take care of their employees. Bad companies grind their employees. You're being grinded. I think looking for someplace else to work is smart.

Just as an aside, when asked about why you are looking for new work, don't talk bad about your current employer. It actually reflects poorly on you as a potential employee. Things like "I'm looking for new challenges" or "I've hit a ceiling on where I can go with my current company" sound a lot better than airing dirty laundry.

But also, make sure you ask questions about working at your new job about things like employee meal policy, etc.

Sorry if you know all of that just trying to look out for you and your job search.Good luck!
 
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Bad news.... your employer is not breaking the law. However I will agree this law in TN looks absurd.

Breaks and Meal Periods
State law requires that employees must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid meal or rest period if scheduled six (6) consecutive hours, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. An example would be a person employed in the food/beverage industry or security guards.

The failure to provide a thirty (30) minute meal or rest period is a violation of state law. There are no state requirements for additional breaks. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-2-103 (2)(A)(B)

Source: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/employees/labor-laws/labor-laws-redirect/wages-breaks.html
 
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Joined Jan 17, 2015
I would't work in a place like this. Whenever I found myself in a job like this I always noticed that staff takes stuff anyway, burns gas unnecessary keeps everything on as to get back at the owners....It ends up being false economy for a boss like that, which is good.....Happy staff gives more in my opinion
 

pete

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Joined Oct 7, 2001
So, yes, technically they've been violating the law already, it's just never been a big ordeal until now.
This has been part of the problem with this industry. Employees have allowed their employers to get away with illegal things for fear of losing their job. I have taken a lot from my employers over the years, but I have mostly drawn the line at illegal practices.
 
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To me not feeding the people who work in the restaurant is bad on so many levels. In my experience a family meal or feeding the people who work at the restaurant builds cohesion as a group. It lets servers become familiar with what comes out of the kitchen. Its an inexpensive way to show gratitude from an owner to the people who make is business work. It allows young cooks to practice new ideas and recipes. It is right just on a human level of not wanting to see people be hungry, or making them feel like stealing is an option to get food. A restaurant that doesn't want to provide the workers with the option of a meal isn't anywhere I'm interested in being.
 
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Joined May 30, 2015
Bad news.... your employer is not breaking the law. However I will agree this law in TN looks absurd.

Breaks and Meal Periods
State law requires that employees must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid meal or rest period if scheduled six (6) consecutive hours, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. An example would be a person employed in the food/beverage industry or security guards.

The failure to provide a thirty (30) minute meal or rest period is a violation of state law. There are no state requirements for additional breaks. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-2-103 (2)(A)(B)

Source: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/employees/labor-laws/labor-laws-redirect/wages-breaks.html

Case law has demonstrated that this only applies to tipped staff, even though it's written vaguely enough that some companies probably are able to get away with it even for kitchen staff.

Either way, it's time to look for a new job. There's so much other crap that goes on (serving food off the floor, out of date meat, etc) that it's only a matter of time before we get shut down. We're already on probation from the health department.
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
When the owner starts acting like chicken shit the employees should start stepping up. It's always been difficult to get breaks in this business. In all the restaurants I have work all the employees would rather eat together after the shift. There just isn't a lot of time before service. Most of the waitstaff is staggered and the cooks come in and do the prep then go right into dinner. If the owner doesn't realize what he had then it's time to show him and take all your breaks that the law requires. In the long run he will wish he never stopped the family meal......Good Luck.......ChefBillyB
 
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My chef, who is the owner, makes it a point to make sure that we know that the products are for the customers only, not any of the staff. Sux; we cook Asian/French fusion...good stuff.

I have gotten in the habit of spending $3-$5 bux to buy either chicken, pork, or sausage, onions, peppers, and tortillas. I feed 3 of us daily. Experimenting all the time. It's fun, filling, and does wonders for morale.

I once worked in a kitchen where the owners' policy was, "Eat what you like, just respect the restaurant". Nobody abused it. It was beautiful.

Another owner charged us with a discount and didn't allow us to just grab a bit of this and a touch of that; we had to purchase the menu item, with a 40% discount.

I think the worst part of the situation is the irony of a hungry cook. That makes no sense, at all. It can be factored into the overhead, as mentioned above, conservatively.

Also, everyone deserves a break, regardless of labor laws. Our industry in particular doesn't have a lot of room for rest sometimes, though. It should be on the owners/managers, etc. to find a mechanism to compensate the employees for lack of rest and nutrition.
 
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