US Labor Department Launches Wage & Hour Enforcement for Los Angeles area Restaurants

Press Release from the US Department of Labor, April 20, 2012:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is launching an enforcement and education initiative focused on the restaurant industry in the Los Angeles area to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor provisions.

Under this initiative, the division will be conducting unannounced investigations at restaurants in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles and other areas of Los Angeles County.

Read more: http://insurance4foodindustry.com/blog/2012/03/increase-in-california-restaurant-wage-hour-violation-citations/

 

Restaurants Targeted by US Labor Department Wage and Hour Division to Prevent Wage and Hour Violations

The US Department of Labor is launching an initiative to enforce wage and hour standards for restaurants in Portland, Oregon, according to a press release from the department on April 5, 2012.

“The restaurant industry employs some of our country’s lowest-paid workers, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation,” said Jeffrey Genkos, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Portland District Office.

Protect your business from employee lawsuits. Invensure offers Employment Practices Liability Insurance at great rates.

“…these employees are reluctant to step forward and complain when subjected to wage violations. Investigators will be making unannounced visits to restaurants throughout the area to conduct investigations, remedy widespread labor violations, and ensure that law-abiding employers who pay their workers full and fair wages are not placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

Because of pressure on restaurants to serve low cost meals and still turn a profit, the food service industry is rife with wage and hour violations. In addition, not all restaurants are in compliance with OSHA safety standards.

Safety Training for California Restaurants

Common wage and hour violations include:

  • Not paying for all hours worked
  • Employees performing work duties “off the clock”
  • Designating employees as exempt from overtime when they are not exempt
  • Paying nonexempt employees a flat salary regardless of any overtime they have worked
  • Paying cash wages off the books
  • Not paying employees proper minimum wage and overtime
  • Illegal deductions from workers’ wages for uniforms, breakages, customer walk-outs, and cash register shortages
  • Child labor violations, such as minors to operating hazardous equipment (dough mixers, meat slicers, trash compactors, etc.) or working excess hours

California is also cracking down on wage and hour violations for restaurants. In a high profile case, Brinker Restaurant Corp is being sued for wage and hour violations. This is a very expensive case for them to try.

Since the crackdown seems to be an emerging trend that will only grow bigger, it is important that you stay up to date with OSHA compliance for restaurants, safety standards, and know all the wage and hour laws for your industry.

It is also a good idea to have Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) for your restaurant, because if you are sued by your employees, the coverage can mean the difference between your business surviving or going belly up.

Invensure’s “Insurance 4 Food Industry” Program is a one stop solution for your California restaurant. We have industry experts who can assist you with your insurance, OSHA compliance, safety programs, and other risks that can affect your business.

Invensure’s holistic approach will not only help you to protect yourself if a problem occurs, it can actually prevent problems from happening in the first case and can lower the costs associated with risk for the long term.

Call (949) 756-4100 to learn more.
We are happy to assist you.

 

Major Components of Food Safety Programs for Restaurants, Manufacturers, and Distributors

In the US each year, there are an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control. For restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors, food safety should be the highest priority and concern in the business.

Safety Training for California Restaurants Guide

A good food safety program that involves employee education, training, and incentives will keep your business free from bad PR and expensive lawsuits. Plus it can raise employee morale and retention while reducing turnover.

Implementing a program can be an involved and time-consuming process depending on the type of business you run, but is well worth the effort as lawsuits from foodborne illnesses can run into millions of dollars.

What are the components of a good food safety training program?

1. Employees must understand why food safety procedures are important. If they understand the “why” behind the training they are more likely to embrace the program. Preventing illness and death, company profits, staying in business, maintaining reputation, pride in quality, and retaining jobs are all reasons that hit home.

2. Personal hygiene component. It can be embarrassing for an employer and employees to discuss personal hygiene, but this is one of the most important parts of food safety and the most basic. If employees do not follow personal hygiene procedures seriously, there is little hope of them following more complex food safety requirements.

3. Cleaning and Sanitizing. Food safety revolves around cleaning and sanitizing properly and avoiding cross contact with dangerous foods. Your program should focus on the proper techniques for sanitizing equipment and materials. In your training you should cover the proper cleaning of produce and other food stuffs as well as how to disassemble equipment and clean it properly. You should also develop a customized cleaning schedule to make sure it is done on a regular basis.

4. Cross-Contamination. A good food safety training program will emphasize the importance of proper food storage to prevent cross-contamination. Make sure to identify the dangerous foods that may cause allergies or foods prone to carry bacteria. Employees should understand which foods can cause a danger to others and how to keep them safely separated.

Prevent Foodborne Illness, Cross-Contamination and Lawsuits

5. Food Storage. components of food safety programsDevelop a system to rotate stock and use older stock first. Label and mark all shipments with date, time, and supplier. Your employees should understand and adhere to the procedures to ensure foods do not become spoiled. If food does become spoiled, employees should know how to handle it. Also, if there is a recall, they should be able to quickly identify the problem item based on the system you develop.

6. Pest Control and Toxic Chemicals. You need to keep your business rodent and pest free, but also be aware of what chemicals are being used at the same time. Your food safety training program should include proper cleanup and garbage removal procedures as well as how to handle, store and apply chemicals. The last think you want is for toxic chemicals to find a way into your food!

7. Food Temperatures. All employees must know the proper temperatures prepare, store, and thaw foods to prevent harmful bacteria growth. They should memorize the danger zone and the understand how reheating and cooling food can be dangerous. They should also know the proper way to use a thermometer to check food temperatures.

8. Emergency Situations. While it is impossible to foresee and prepare for every possible emergency, consider the most likely problems and train employees how to handle them. What would happen if a sewer backed up? If refrigeration failed? If pest control chemicals spilled into a vat while there was a huge order being prepared under a tight deadline? If a shipment was rotten or contaminated and there was no other supplier? By using what if scenarios and asking your employees how they would react, you are preparing them to think properly in the event of an emergency. It can also help you identify possible leadership. Always stress food safety as a result of their emergency actions.

If you have a food business in California and would like a copy of our food safety checklist, contact Invensure at (800) 331-4700. We insure food businesses and help implement safety and OSHA compliance measures in order to reduce liability and control the cost of risk.

OSHA Compliance & Safety Checklists for Restaurants

It is exciting to announce that we have completed our restaurant safety and OSHA compliance checklists and are now offering this program to our clients.

Safety Checklist for California Restaurant Insurance ProgramWe don’t just quote insurance and this is proof. What we provide is a valuable service that is beyond what other local insurance brokers do.

Just last week we did an OSHA compliance review with one of our restaurant owners and found violations that would have cost him $11,800 in fines if an inspector came in. We helped him correct the errors and helped him save $11,800.

Not only did we save him the amount of money a fine would cost him, we also helped reduce his workers’ compensation rates by doing the service as well. Invensure offers a complete, holistic approach to risk management that is more than just insurance.

Not only does Invensure provide the right protection for when somethings, we also help to prevent problems and reduce your overall cost of risk.

If you have questions about how we can help with your restaurant safety and insurance in Southern California, call (800) 331-4700.

Food Safety for Restaurants: How to Prevent Foodborne Illness, Cross Contamination, and Lawsuits

Foodborne illness causes an estimated 47.8 million sicknesses and about 3,000 deaths annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2011, an outbreak of a foodborne illness from Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe took at least 13 lives.

Restaurants and their employees are responsible for the safety of their dishes and the health and safety of their customers.

If someone gets sick from eating food prepared
in your restaurant, you could:

Foodborne illness can be prevented with a food safety program

  • Be sued
  • Be found liable in a lawsuit
  • Be responsible for the medical costs
  • Be responsible for monetary settlements, which have amounted
    to millions of dollars in several wrongful death cases
  • Destroy the reputation of your business
  • Lose your business
  • Have to file bankruptcy


Download a copy of this report
.

Common causes of foodborne illness

Reasons people become infected is because of bacteria growth, improper food storage, improper food prep hygiene, cross contamination, undercooked meat, and infected prep workers transmitting illness to the consumer.

The CDC estimates that 9.4 million of annual illnesses are caused by 31 known foodborne pathogens, and that 90% of all illnesses due to known pathogens are caused by: Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Clostridium perfringens.

How to prevent food contamination and
foodborne illnesses in your restaurant

It all starts with your supplier

Once food has been contaminated, there is no way to change that. If you purchase produce from a farm and it has e. coli bacteria, you will transmit that to your customers. You could be found liable for serving the tainted food.

Do your homework when choosing your suppliers. Choose reputable distributors and make sure you are receiving good quality, fresh food items. Ask questions about the safety mechanisms they have in place to prevent contamination.

Develop a system to quickly identify all inventory from a particular supplier, so if one supplier has a recall, you can quickly deal with it and keep business moving at the same time.

Keep cold foods cold until ready to use
You must keep frozen food frozen and cold food below 41 degrees through the transportation and storage process. If food that needs refrigeration is left above 41 degrees for more than four hours, there is a high risk of foodborne illness caused by bacterial growth.

Make sure your suppliers follow the cold chain and once the items are in your facility, use strict measures to ensure they are refrigerated immediately and all fridges and freezers are operating at the proper temperatures. The less time foods are at temperatures above 41 degrees, the less opportunity for bacteria to grow.

Foods must be cooked to proper temperatures

Safe food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria growth and foodborne illness

This is a general guide to safe food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria growth and foodborne illness

Always use a meat thermometer to make sure that food has been cooked to a safe temperature. Food that does not reach a safe temperature can allow bacteria to breed and cause illness.
Put the thermometer into the thickest part of the cut to make sure it has cooked all the way through. Do not allow it to touch the bone as this will give an incorrect temperature. The temperatures on this chart must be maintained for at least 15 seconds to kill harmful bacteria.

About microwave cooking

Microwaves tend to cook food unevenly. Stir food while it is cooking and leave it covered for two minutes after it is done. This will ensure the even distribution of heat to destroy bacteria in colder spots.

Cross-contamination is the leading cause of foodborne illness

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria is transferred from one food item to another via work surface, improper storage, thawing, preparation, or the cooking process.

  • Use separate knives for poultry, meats, and produce.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats, poultry, and produce.
  • Never put cooked food onto a plate or tray that has
    been used for raw foods.
  • Use high heat for sterilization when washing dishes that have come in contact with raw foods.
  • Wash all foods well before preparing.
  • Wash hands with anti-bacterial soap frequently during the cooking process. Do not handle coked food after handling raw food without washing hands first or changing gloves.
  • Do not use the same utensils for cooked and raw foods.

Employee food safety training is the law in California

Washing hands can help prevent cross contaminationAll your employees need to get their California Food Handler Cards. Not only is it the law in California as of January 1, 2012, it is an essential overview of food safety and a good learning opportunity for employees new to the industry or younger workers.

Once employees are trained and have their cards, there is no excuse for them not working in the safest, cleanest manner possible. Make sure your employees know that food safety is a priority in your restaurant and quality standards must be maintained at all times.

How to protect yourself when all else fails

Even the most careful food suppliers, chefs, and restaurants can still have instances of food contamination and resulting illness. You can do everything in your power to run a clean, safe kitchen, but there is always the chance that something outside of your control can happen.

Work with an expert to get a good restaurant insurance policy that is tailored to your facility. It is important to work with someone who knows the industry well and understands how your restaurant is unique. A restaurant insurance specialist can help identify the risks and advise the best protection for your situation.

Restaurant insurance coverages that can help protect you

Food contamination coverage: Covers you financially in the event of food poisoning or communicable diseases transmitted by an employee.

Food product liability coverage: If you are producing goods for sale, this can protect you in the event that your food product causes harm to the user.

Food spoilage coverage:
If your refrigeration breaks down or your power goes out, the spoil food can be replaced if you have this coverage.

Food product recall coverage: If the food products you sell are recalled, your expenses that result will be covered, such as the cost to notify consumers, shipping and disposal of the product, refunding the customer, and more.

If you have questions or need assistance,
restaurant insurance experts are here to help.
Call (800) 331-4700

Why Food Product Liability Insurance Coverage Will Save Your Food Business from Bankruptcy

If you want to protect your food business from the financial damage of a lawsuit, food product liability insurance is essential. Food can easily spoil or become contaminated at many points through its life cycle. From being contaminated at the farm where it grows (as in recent e. coli outbreaks), to its storage, transportation, manufacture, and preparation there are multiple points of contact where a problem can occur.

Food Product Liability Insurance Can Save Your Business if You are Sued

You can use all the care in the world in your process, but if food you receive is contaminated with bacteria, you could be held liable if someone gets sick.

Even when food safety and hygiene is a priority in the operations of your business, there is always a chance for an error that can expose you to a lawsuit. Even if you do everything right, you could receive a shipment of contaminated food and pass on that on to a consumer, in which case you may be liable, even if you did nothing wrong.

Common bacteria that cause foodborn illness are e. coli, listeria, mad cow disease, and salmonella. If the food is not refrigerated or processed properly, the end product can cause illness or even death to those who consume it.

Food labeling is also another serious issue that can lead to lawsuits if it is not done properly. Not only can the food company be sued for improper labeling or mislabeling, the organizations using those food products can be liable for lawsuits as well.

Many people suffer from food allergies, and can become seriously ill or even die if they eat the wrong thing. Common food allergies include: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, lactose, and wheat gluten. If food is not labeled properly, such as “processed in a plant that contains peanuts,” a lawsuit can ensue.

If a food manufacturer, farm, or restaurant causes a consumer to become ill, they can be sued and be held liable. The cost of legal defense is extremely high, and monetary rewards or settlements out of court can be astronomical. Food product liability insurance will cover costs of a lawsuit, and protect the financial well being of the company sued.

Invensure has experts on staff that can help you determine what amount of coverage you need. We have been serving Southern California for over 35 years, and have agents who work exclusively with restaurants, food manufacturers, and distributors.

Call today to learn more. (800) 331-4700

How to Increase Your Restaurant’s Profitability with a Good Prevention Plan

Attention all Restaurant Owners and Managers:
Increase Your Restaurant’s Profitability with a Good Prevention Plan

Running a successful restaurant is a balancing act of hiring the right employees, keeping a consistent supply of quality, fresh food, and drawing a steady crowd of hungry customers. Aside from the obvious, there are additional items you can adjust in your operations to help increase your profits.

Review Your Fixed Expenses
It may seem that you have less control over these items, but it may be more important to your bottom line than you think. In the arena of litigation, risk management, safety, and insurance expenses, you have a lot of control and your diligence and actions can make the difference between a profitable restaurant and a bankrupt one.

Beware the Salad BarSalad bars are a liability and result in higher restaurant insurance premiums
While many customers may compliment the variety and freshness of the items in your salad bar, you should be aware that your salad bar is a huge liability. Thousands of slip and fall accidents occur every year because of salad bars and some result in lawsuits and higher insurance premiums.

Slip and fall accidents are the number one cause of accidents in restaurants and the number two cause of workers’ compensation liability claims. Most slip and fall accidents are easily preventable when proper procedures are in place.

If you don’t want a customer to take a header in your establishment and sue you for their injuries, reconsider the salad bar. If it must stay, implement strict employee procedures to monitor the area and keep the floors around it debris free and dry at all times. Install non-slip mats or surfaces. Those tomato slices may look beautiful on a plate, but when a customer slips on one and sues, you are the one who will be seeing red.

Employee Safety Training Pays For Itself

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “for every $1 spent in safety programs, businesses can save between $4 to $6 from costs associated with injuries and fatalities.”

Because the cost of your workers’ compensation rate is directly affected by the number and severity of claims, a good safety program is the first step in lowering the cost of your workers compensation premium. One out of 20 employment related injuries occur at eating and drinking establishments, and the most common injuries are cuts, burns, strains, and eye injuries.

Make sure all employees are trained in the proper safety measures of handling knives and power equipment. Make sure equipment is in good working order and properly guarded.

Save on Restaurant Insurance with Fire Prevention Measures
Restaurants have a high risk of firesThere are thousands of restaurant fires each year, and cooking equipment is the cause of half of all fires in restaurants. Restaurant fires are particularly dangerous because the number of patrons and workers who are exposed to potential fire danger.

Insurance companies are well aware of the risk fire imposes in restaurants, but did you know that you will get better rates if you comply with certain safety measures? A sprinkler system will help decrease the amount you pay for fire insurance as well as reduce damage when it’s really needed. The average loss for a fire with a sprinkler system was $6,500, compared to $18,800 for those without a automatic suppression system, according to NFPA Fire Analysis and Research.

Maintain a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule in your kitchen. Some carriers will give you credit for regular maintenance, cleaning and/or removing grease from your hoods, flues and chimneys because it helps to prevent fires.

Additionally, when considering fire safety, keep fire extinguishers charged and accessible, and make sure employees are trained how to use them.

Your Location is a Factor in Saving as Well as Making Money

Anyone who has studied business understands how important location is to the success of a business, but did you know your neighbors have an influence on your insurance premium? If your restaurant is near a business with potential hazards, such as a woodworking or chemical facility, your insurance will be higher than if you have general offices nearby. Choose your location wisely.

The Moral of the Story
Finding ways to save on your fixed expenses can help increase your bottom line. A good prevention plan that includes safety measures can not only reduce the cost of your insurance premium, it can also prevent problems and increase employee morale. Implement a good prevention plan that includes keeping your establishment clean and tidy, training employees in safety, and keeping your fire protection up to code, you are on the way to an accident-free workplace with low restaurant insurance rates!

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Invensure offers specialty insurance and safety services for restaurants.

Call (800) 331-4700 to sign up or learn more about the restaurant insurance program.

California Restaurant Fined $239,000 in Wage Theft Violations

A restaurant in San Francisco had to pay 14 employees more than $239,000 for wage theft violations, according to the California Labor Commissioner.

According to California law, employees who work more than eight hours in a day are required to be paid 1.5 times their normal pay rate for the first four hours over eight, and double time after 12 hours in a day. An employee who works more than 40 hours in a week is entitled to receive 1.5 times their normal pay rate for any hours over 40.

However, in the case of the Big Lantern restaurant, employees did not receive overtime pay and some salaried employees did not even receive minimum wage after working overtime, according to attorney David Balter.

Underpaying workers is a large problem in the restaurant industry, and the labor commissioner is getting tougher on restaurants in general. To protect yourself as a restaurant owner, you should get Employment Practices Liability Insurance.

If you are in Southern California, call the restaurant specialists at Invensure to learn more: (949) 756-4100.

Increase in California Restaurant Wage & Hour Violation Citations

Why has there been a recent increase in wage and hour violations for California restaurants?

“It’s a commitment to being more proactive, more aggressive, conducting more meaningful in depth investigations, and having deputies spend more time in the field and getting wages back in workers’ pockets.

“It’s also about letting the good employers who are following the law know that we are there to protect them,” said According to California Labor Commissioner, Julie Su.

Su says most investigations start when workers complain. This may lead to an investigation where the restaurant is visited, employees are interviewed, the restaurant is audited and payroll records are inspected thoroughly.

In many cases, workers receive a payout. If you own a restaurant, it’s a good idea to review the wage and hour laws to make sure you are in compliance. Next, employment practices liability insurance can help protect you financially in the event of a lawsuit.

If you have a restaurant in Southern California and would like to know more about employment practices liability insurance, call the restaurant insurance experts at Invensure, (949) 756-4100.

Another Reason Restaurants Need Employment Practices Liability Insurance: Panda Express Sued by Employees

In yet another employee lawsuit, Panda Express was sued by a former employee because she was not allowed to sit down while she was working as a cashier.

According to California Labor Code and Wage Order 7-2001, “all working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of work reasonably permits.”

The suit is an attempted class action by all cashiers for the company. Rite Aid and Nordstrom are facing similar lawsuits.

We will be watching this case as it evolves, because there seems to be a bit of ambiguity in the term “nature of work reasonably permits.”

If the employee wins this case, it will mean drastic changes for the entire food service industry.

In the meantime, it is just another example where Employment Practices Liability Insurance could help protect the restaurant financially. Learn more about Employment Practices Liability Insurance for Restaurants or call our restaurant insurance experts at (949) 756-4100 if you have questions.