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The employment law issues restaurant workers are facing

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2020 | Employment Law

When you work in a restaurant, you should always be aware of your rights so that you can stand up for yourself if they are not respected. Recent world events have also brought in unique issues for workers in many industries, but especially in bars and restaurants. Here are some common issues that restaurant workers deal with:

Nonessential business shutdown

On March 15, 2020, the mayor of Los Angeles issued closure of all bars and restaurants aside from delivery and takeout due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees are now out of work and businesses are struggling to stay afloat. To compensate, workers may be able to qualify for unemployment or leave depending on the employer’s policies. If you are sick, you may be able to file for disability benefits through the state.

Youth employment

Restaurants can be great places for minors in school to find jobs but there are specific rules that apply to them. Here are the laws that apply to employees at certain ages:

  • 14 to 15 years old – Must work outside school hours, maximum 3 hours on a school day and 18 hours in a school week, maximum 8 hours on a non-school day and 40 hours in a non-school week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. except for 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 1 through Labor Day, generally no cooking or baking
  • 16 to 17 years old – No hour limits, no hazardous jobs (involving power tools or dangerous machines), cannot drive or serve in their job on a public road unless they meet specific requirement, cannot make time sensitive deliveries or drive at night

Tips and minimum wage

State law says that employers must pay tipped employees the full minimum in their direct wages. This means that for tipped workers in California, all tips that restaurant employees get are in addition to the minimum wage. The minimum wage for companies with 25 or less employees is $12.00 and for those with 26 or more employees it is $13.00.


When restaurants get busy, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and not take a break. However, you legally have a right to take breaks. For every 4 hours you work, a 10-minute paid rest break is given. For every 5 hours, you get a 30-minute minimum meal break.

If you work at a restaurant and feel that your employer is not following the guidelines for proper care of the workers, reach out to a legal professional. They will help you learn more and move forward properly. If you have lost work due to at state shutdown, seek the help you need through the State of California Employment Development Department.