Working off the clock

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by jwv76, Jan 29, 2002.

  1. jwv76

    jwv76

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    I just feel like ranting.
    I work 12 hour days every time I work (noon to midnight, sometimes later), but I only get paid for ten. I have time punch receipts from the POS to prove it. Often times I'll only work four days a week, so I'll get paid for 40 hours of regular time (even though I work 48, at least), but in the state I live in, supposedly, if you work more than eight hours in one day you are owed time and a half for anything over eight hours (regardless of the total number of hours for the week). So not only am I not getting paid for the two hours I worked for free, I'm also not getting the time and a half for the two extra hours over eight that I do get paid for. The practice of working cooks off the clock has become so commonplace in the industry that it is the norm, at least where I live (San Francisco). Every fine dining restaurant in SF works their cooks off the clock. I've been doing it for a long time now, but I never forget that it's totally illegal. It's the industry's dirty little secret, something I'm sure they never tell doe-eyed culinary students. I'm sure most diners would be shocked to learn that the most basic of twentieth century labor reforms have had nil effect on their favorite eatery.
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    1) Document everything

    1a) Call the bar association and ask to be referred to a lawyer who specializes in labor law. Should cost you about $25 for an initial consultation.

    2) Have your fellow workers document everything
    3) Form an informal group with fellow workers from other restaurants/hotels and document everything

    By law, you're not only entitled to overtime, you're also entitled to a half hour lunch and two fifteen minute breaks for every eight hours worked. By law, there should be an up to date poster hanging on the wall next to the time clock explaining your rights as an employee.

    Kuan
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    Let me know where I missed it, but I never read where you went to talk with your boss and he or she said take it or leave it. Many times owners and managers are not familiar with payroll and accounts payable practices, especially if the are done off property.
    Gather all your info, time sheets,POS reports, and approach your boss. Tell them you have calculated all the monies that the company has overlooked and ask them for compensation. I only say this way for it seems its always better to approach management with a resolution than a complaint.
    Now keep in mind that , if this is a dirty house and the management knows, absolutely what is going on ,then be prepared with a back up job.
    PS. This is only a suggestion. Also learn the local rules. Things vary from state to state.
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Hrm, I assumed that he did talk to his employer. Everytime I handed out paychecks I was asked to explain why the hours didn't seem right. Panini's right, talk to your employer first.

    Kuan
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

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    What happened to me once years ago.... I was working at a country club as a salaried pastry chef, but worked unsupervised, unscheduled. Months after I left the job I got this big check in the mail from them... with a weird cover letter from a goverment agency, that I didn't understand so I called the gov. number on the letter for more info.

    They told me the club owed me ot (which I never recieved any while there) since it was their fault I worked over time, they should have supervised my hours or paid me ot. Well I did nothing to contact anyone about this because I didn't know that as a salaried employee I was owed ot money. BUT when I inquired to a friend that had worked there too, I understand that the club thought I went to the goverment and caused this big problem for them. Needless to say it didn't sound like I should use them as a reference ever again.

    I'm not sure what my point here is exactly....other then don't forget there could be a price for you to pay in the local industry if word gets out your a 'trouble maker'. BUT to h--- with that, whats right is right....but you could have people labeling you as trouble behind your back.

    I can tell you though, everyone one here knows what your talking about.
     
  6. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    Contact your local office of the Labor Department. They are VERY sticky about this. They will investigate and get you your back pay with overtime. If you are being paid a weekly salary, you must spend a greater amount of your time doing administrative work as opposed to production work. Restaurants and hotels get themselves into trouble with this all the time. They pay a sous chef or cook what seems to be a generous salary but then work the employee overtime like crazy.
    I recieved a BIG settlement from Hyatt when I was averaging 109 hours per week at 24,000 per year. You do the math. I figured I was making about 2.75/hour.
    Contact the Department of Labor!
     
  7. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Not only for all the above mentioned reasons is it bad to work "off the clock", but the state and federal agencies take this VERY seriously.
    1. Taxes. Not just what YOU owe, but the employer contributions.
    2. Workmans' Compensation is based off of a businesses' gross payroll.
    3. Liability. Suppose one of the "off the clock" employees sends out a salad with a walnut shell?
    4. Federal and state labor practices vary from state to state. If your employer has a gross income of less than $250,000 per year, or less than 25 employees, they may be exempt from some federal labor laws.
    5. I agree with Panini. If you confront your boss or have the business audited, be prepared to look for another job. If they fire you for your actions, you will probably be eligible for unemployment benefits.
    6. Level the playing field. Low life businessmen make it hard for the rest of us who ARE doing it legally to be competitive! Do it!
     
  8. moxiefan

    moxiefan

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    My experience has been in a mom-and-pop dishwasher/prep capacity, where its a certainty that you WILL be exploited. I never pursued it, because it was always just a summer job and didn't seem that important. Perhaps someone can back me up on the following, which I earnestly beleive to be correct (which is not to say it is).

    This is the course I would reccommend. Doccument first. Doccument. Doccument. Doccument. Then go see a lawyer/labor dept. Then talk to your manager. I disagree about having a backup job, too. One of the other posters visible in your kitchen should concern legal protection for whistle blowers -- I'm pretty sure that's a Federal civil liberties mandate. They cannot fire you for bringing illegal practices to the attention of the authorities. Now, its pretty unlikely, depending on the structure of your organization, that you would want to continue to work in a place against which you catalysed legal action. Some people take that personal. If you're willing to stick it out, though, (and sticky it will be) you should have that protection. Furthermore, it will likely be all about what they know you know... which is why you need to contact either a lawyer or the labor department early on, before going to talk to management.

    I hate to sound legalistic, but this is serrious stuff. It happens way to often, and people don't do anything about it. I mean it's one thing to help managment out -- cover an extra shift, clock out for an hour if cleanup is going slow -- if they treat you well in the first place and it is an exceptional circumstance. But EVERY WEEK?

    that's my thinking,
    P
     
  9. panini

    panini

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    Au contraire Pierre, I personally know of one mom and pop place that does not exploit employees.
    I dissagree: I would talk to the manager first
    Then go to the labor dept. why pay a lawyer
    the labor dept is free.
    I understand your thinking about the attorney, but like I said in previous post, sometimes owners are not aware of illegal practices going on. This may sound like a cop out but I just survived an instance where someone handling my AP was playing games with my vendors. It took me several months to find out. I have had such a good repore with my vendors that it took a long time for them to approach me. I was crushed! I worked my a-- off for years to establish contact and credit with these people only to find out that they were being jacked around. This could of been a payroll problem just as easy.
     
  10. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    We as culinary employees , owners , and managers must know labor laws before we act . Never is it legal to work without being paid for it . Hourly employees are protected by federal laws , salaried people can get the shaft in a legal way sometimes
    ( the thread about the 100 plus weekly hours with Marriot brings back some bad memories ) . This industries history was based on taking advantage of its employees . It is up to us here and now to make a difference and to make a change . There has been so much good advice here on this thread just use what will work for you and run with it . May the force be with you .....
    P.S. Keep us Posted please .......
     
  11. jwv76

    jwv76

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    well, thanks to everyone who responded. As for having a "back-up job", well, where? This is a tough town to be a cook in, the pay is low, rent is high, the hours are long, and I mean it, everyone works off the clock (how else do you have your station set up on time?). My last job was the same, except you were actually told not to clock in before a certain time, so there was never a paper trail. I've staged at nearly a dozen other restaurants in town while looking for work (won't name names but basically all of the truly major name restaurants in town) and I assure you, none of the hourly-wage cooks I've trailed get paid for the hours they put in. I don't work at no "mom 'n pop" operation, I'm a line chef at an upscale place operated by one of the most recognizable restaurant management companies in the country (our company owns some major, major 4 star places in NYC), doing what it takes to get my resume where it needs to be. I really don't give a rat about getting back money owed to me for overtime I never recieved. What I was hoping to get from this forum was possibly a debate - is it about paying your dues or is it about exploitation? Does anybody really make it in this field who doesn't also suffer from work addiction? My executive chef works MINIMUM 100 hours a week, lunch and dinner six days a week (makes me feel like a puss - "Um, chef, my check is a little short, I worked 50 hours last week, but I only got paid for 40." Yeah, right.)
     
  12. panini

    panini

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    jwv76,
    Sorry you did not get the debate that you wanted. I think if you stated that you wanted discussion on "paying your dues" VS "slave labor" you would have been happier with the post.
    On this forum most jump right up to help a fellow culinarian. I misunderstood also, I thought you were seeking help getting some back wages.
    We have all debated this topic. One of the problems we have is there is not a parallel to other modern professions.
    This profession is still very antiquated and primitive in it belief of training. One problem being that we are not regulated by a certification(except health issues) process. I'm not saying that I'm pro anything here. We all do some sort of accounting in the course of daily living,but we need CPA statis to gain respect, same goes for attourney,MD,EMT,etc.
    We have all been there. I for one could not find the answers you are looking for. I paid my dues, moved up in the ranks, work for the big and popular guys, gained the Exec. title my last eight positions, made the big bucks, and still could not find happiness.
    Years ago I moved to the "MOM & POP" place you seem to look down on, but I must tell you, those big boys with all the glitter and all the notariety deem you as a number. There is always some bean counter in a cubicle somewhere that has no understanding of the business making descissions that will effect you life.
    PS I have found the passion even greater, for the profession, amongst my fellow ma and pa's. I don't know about NYC but here some of the most exciting houses to eat at or work at are sole owners. I do have a little understanding though, I opened that monster in Time Square in '86.
     
  13. palmier

    palmier

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    It sounds like you need to assess the situation very carefully. Be completely aware of the consequences before acting on them. Yes its unfair, but it could be worse. Like some of the others here, I too was ripped off. I decided it was better to walk away, instead of fighting it. I live in Chicago and a wise chef once told me 'Its a big city, but a small culinary community'. chefs call each other all the time.
     
  14. snakelady1

    snakelady1

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    In all of the kitchens I have run never was an employee allowed to work off the clock simply for insurance reasons and state law. Granted in Wisconsin opportunities are much diffferent than in the large coastal communities
     
  15. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    I have worked independently for the last 12 years because I realized back then that working for a large organization was as much about politics and people as it is about food. I didn't like being a part of THEIR 'big picture". I am not a politically adept person. I have NEVER agreed with the way most restaurants are run, and figured out it was up to ME to do something instead of waiting around to be DISCOVERED AND APPRECIATED! So I started owning restaurants and started getting PAID for my hard work. And the cool thing is now I can do what I want. Serve what I want. Work when I want. Hey! I'm getting paid to screw around on the Internet! I work these days @ 20-30 hours per week. I have a good staff. I take a lot of vacations.
    If you guys are willing to put up having to work those monsterous hours without compensation, good luck. I guess this "dues paying" will go on as long as people think it is a way to get ahead in the restaurant business!
     
  16. panini

    panini

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    Peachcreek,
    I know the message you are trying to convey, but I think you are sugarcoating it just a little.no? You work hard, you have a lot of responsibilities, but you are in control right?
     
  17. fodigger

    fodigger

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    I live ,work and pay taxes in CA. It would be hard to believe that management doesn't know what is happening. In CA they are very strict about overtime pay. We went from a 40 hr week o/t to a over 8 hrs o/t 2 years ago. It was a very big deal. We all get reports stating hrs worked verses dollars spent simple math would show them it doesn't add up. These guys need a serious adjustment in the way they do business. It is totally unfair that I need to follow the leter and spirit of the law while they flaunt it. As was the discussion a couple of months ago here things in the industry will never change if companies are allowed to treat their employees like this. What good is a chef how works 100 hrs per week min. anyway? We all need to recharge our bodies and minds. I wouldn't be surprised if this managers bonus wasn't some how tied to this. If I treated my employees like that I'D SUE ME!
     
  18. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Right on Fodigger,

    Peachcreek, I must congradulate you on your ability.
    I wish I could work 20 or 30 hours a week and call my self a "Chef"Maybe in another life
    cc
     
  19. holydiver

    holydiver

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    Exactly all I hear in the industry mags is how they want the industry to be proffesional and all this lip service baloney. The fact of the matter is it will never truly change without us being considered professional's having a cetification. Any owner who says that they never knew about labor laws is an absolute scumbag liar it is quite well spelled out I have personally been owed thousands of dollars my self. The big thing is when you try to change things you are labeled a disgrultled employee not a team player etc. I don't understand you can't have it both ways either this is an art or a bussiess it can't really be both if it is an art then fine but you can't be working for the love of the game so to speak while the people who employ you are looking to fill their pockets the two just do not mix. Another thing is if the biz does not change someday there might not be a biz this is the 21st century not the 1800's some parts of the industry have changed but a huge amount still hasn't. People want all kinds of certification culinary schools etc. which I am all for but where does the money come from it is not free to go to school travel to Italy to study etc. how can you do that making 8-10 even 15 dollars an hour. I can go be a nurse and right out of school make 22-25 an hour to start that is a lot more than I make after almost 15 years in the biz that is not right. The industry wants the best and the brightest well I say treat people and pay people or else why bother.... sorry about my rambling guys I am just in a mood lol....
     
  20. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    I laugh. I got "blackballed" because of my lack of schooling years ago. I could'nt even ever get considered for a lot of the better jobs out there. So I had to take alternative routes. I guess in the end it saved me from a lot of grief! The moral of my story? I'd rather be a cook with a good business plan than a "great" chef!