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.

 

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.

US Department of Labor Sues Subway Restaurant Franchise over Wage and Hour Law Violations

February 6, 2012: According to a press release from the US Department of Labor, a Subway franchise in Ohio owned by Hray Enterprises has been sued for back wages of 68 employees in 5 restaurants. The owners Joseph Hray and Tammy Hray were investigated by the Wage and Hour Division and are alleged to have violated minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws.

The two-year investigation found that the franchisee did not pay employees for the hours they worked after the store closed (overtime violations) and employees were docked wages when their cash registers were short, (minimum wage violations). Most seriously, minors were found performing dangerous tasks that are prohibited by child labor and OSHA laws.

Workers under the age of 18 have special restrictions about operating hazardous machinery in the workplace. Restaurants have special OSHA regulations about teen workers. Minors are prohibited from operating or loading balers and trash compactors, and five of the employees regularly had to do so as part of their duties.

According to the press release, “employers may make wage deductions for cash register shortages, certain uniforms and food; however, the deductions cannot result in an employee earning less than the minimum wage for all hours worked in every workweek.” In this case, the wages that were deducted lowered the rate of pay as to fall below the allowable amount. Additionally, the overtime work should have been paid at a rate of time and a half to comply with federal laws.

This year, 6 out of 10 restaurants in California will be sued by their employees. Inspections are increasing and wage and hour laws are becoming more complicated. Many employers are not aware of the laws or have difficulty understanding how to comply with them.

This is where Invensure can help. Because we specialize in insuring restaurants in Southern California, it is our job to advise you how to minimize your liability. A good Employment Practices Liability insurance (EPLI) policy could help to recover some of the financial damages from an employee lawsuit.

Are you protected? Call (800) 331-4700 to learn more.

Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court: A case study for wage hour laws and employment practices liability insurance

Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court is a high profile case that will set the standards for wage and hour law. While the outcome of the case may benefit numerous employers by clarifying the gray areas of California wage and hour laws, Brinker Restaurant Corp. has been through a nightmare with the class action lawsuit that has been dragging on for years.

Protect your restaurant from lawsuits related to Employment Practices Liability

Protect your restaurant from lawsuits related to Employment Practices Liability

What if this were you?

Brinker Restaurant Corp is no small employer. Best known for its franchise brands, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant, Brinker has more than 1,500 restaurants in 32 countries worldwide, and employs over 10,000 people.

Hopefully Brinker’s international success can afford it the lawyers it needs to keep this 3-year case going. The outcome of this lawsuit will clarify the issue of what exactly is an employer’s obligation to provide meal periods to non-exempt employees.

Even though Brinker can afford a team of lawyers and Human Resources specialists, its knowledge of wage and hour law was still fuzzy enough for them to be faced with a class action lawsuit.

The case stems from a law that states, “no employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal break of not less than 30 minutes . . . .”

Brinker, like many employers, interpreted this to mean employees who work more than 5 hours get a meal period and employees who work more than 10 hours get a second meal period. However, the plaintiffs in the case argue that an employee who works over 5 hours is entitled to a second meal period, and if the employer did not provide one, the employee should be entitled to a one-hour penalty.

Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2011

Fuzzy interpretations of the law is the reality in California. Wage and hour laws are numerous, complicated and ever changing. For the very reason that most employers are not legal experts, 6 out of 10 restaurant owners will face employee lawsuits this year.

Scary, isn’t it?

So what can you do to protect yourself and your restaurant?

The cost of a lawsuit is very high, and we don’t want to even imagine what Brinker’s costs are for the past 3 years of legal defense. An average restaurant owner faced with these types of charges would have to file for bankruptcy.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) provides protection from claims against employees, former employees, and potential employees. It covers discrimination, sexual harassment, and other legal action that arises from employment practices.

You should get an EPLI policy as soon as you intend on hiring an employee. Your restaurant can be vulnerable starting with the pre-hiring process, so it is best not to take the risk. Also, most investors and directors require it since they can be held liable in these types of suits.

If you would like to learn more about Employment Practices Liability Insurance for your restaurant in California, call (800) 331-4700 and ask to speak to our restaurant specialist.

Invensure is here to help. We will help protect you from employee lawsuits, and hopefully you can avoid a nightmare like the Brinker Restaurant Corp. is going through. Call now.

California Restaurant Insurance

Restaurant Insurance in California can be a bit tricky. California has many laws to protect employees and strict OSHA regulations. In order to reduce your liability and protect yourself, as a restaurant owner, from financial disaster, you must purchase the right insurance for your restaurant.

A common problem in the restaurant industry is that owners use a friend of the family or their personal insurance broker to get them insurance. However, someone who does not specialize in insuring restaurants in California would not know the specific risks that restaurants face.

A few things to know about California Restaurant Insurance:

Employment Liability Practices Insurance
In California, 6 out of 10 restaurants have faced employee lawsuits. Because of the nature of the restaurant industry, it is difficult to control the hours that wait staff works. They may work overtime if the restaurant is busy, or may not take their meal period within the first 5 hours that they work (as what is stated by California law).

Many of the recent lawsuits have to do with overtime pay and the new “Wage Theft Protection” act that passed recently. In order to protect yourself from employee lawsuits, it is imperative that you get Employment Practices Liability Insurance.

Food Specific Coverages
In a restaurant, you feed the general public. There have been cases where food is contaminated and causes illness. A restaurant must have insurance that will protect them in the event that the food they serve causes people to become sick.

There are several types of coverages that apply directly to food safety. Depending on the type of business you have, they type of food you serve, and the volume of food you produce, one or more of these coverages can help protect you.

Product Liability, Food Spoilage Coverage, Food Contamination Coverage, and Food Recall are all coverages to consider for your restaurant business. A qualified agent can help you determine exactly what coverages can help protect your business.

Insurance for the Restaurant Building and Equipment
Restaurants in California have specific risks that are different from other kinds of businesses. It is possible that there can be a flood inside of the restaurant because of a water main or sewer break.

Leaks in the walls or a fire can damage adjoining businesses. If the building burns down and zoning in the area has changed, you could face additional challenges when rebuilding.

Restaurants have expensive equipment and a loss of power can result in all the food in the cooler or freezer spoiling. If a pizza oven breaks down and a business is unable to serve food for several days because of it, you could stand to lose a lot of business. Did you know there is coverage for that?

In sum, speak to an expert who works with restaurants in California for their insurance. You want someone who knows your industry inside and out who can help you best protect your business.

Invensure specializes in insuring restaurants in Southern California. Speak to an industry expert at (800) 331-4700.

4 Risks Restaurant Owners May Not Have Considered

Restaurant owners have expanded their operations to help increase their bottom lines. Along with some of these creative additions to combat the recession  come increased liabilities they may not have considered.

Some things they may have done to bring in more revenue are delivering meals, start a catering business, sell new trends of food such as gluten-free or organics, and accept non-traditional forms of payment via smart phone.

While these creative methods of expanding your business may have improved your bottom line, restaurant owners may not have considered the extra liability they have assumed in doing so.

Delivery Services

If you have recently added delivery of meals to your customers, did you hire drivers with their own cars? If so, there are several considerations you must address. If you should face a lawsuit because of a vehicle accident with one of your drivers, these items can halp you reduce your liability.

Did you know that regular commercial auto coverage does not cover liability for drivers who use their own cars? That is what hired and non-owned auto coverage is for. You should also make sure you have adequate umbrella coverage to cover awards for injuries from vehicle accidents.

In addition to insurance issues, you should also implement special hiring screenings to check the DMV records of your drivers. Your new drivers should have minimal tickets, no at-fault accidents, and no DUIs. This ensures you have a driver with safer driving habits. You should also make sure that the driver has the necessary insurance coverage and their policy does not exclude business operation.

Another thing you should do is make sure that you develop strong employment policies for your drivers. These policies should outline safe driving and liability reducing practices for while they are on the job, including no cell phone use, obey all speed limits, no drinking on the job, no passengers while on the job, proper vehicle maintenance, and other restrictions you deem as necessary to ensure minimal liability.

Catering

There are several important aspects regarding catering and offering food off-site that a restaurant owner should consider as liabilities. These include workers’ compensation, liquor liability, and the delivery driver considerations mentioned above.

When employees are delivering food off-site, they may face additional chance of injury. First, they may be lifting heavy trays and moving them from a delivery truck to a location. Next, they are in a foreign environment and not as familiar with the terrain. This combination of factors makes them more prone to injuries such as back strain and slip, trip and fall injuries. You should make sure your workers’ compensation policy includes events outside your restaurant, as not all do.

The next consideration is liquor liability. Make sure your policy includes off-premises liquor liability. Staff should also be trained to limit serving guests who have had too much, and avoid serving minors.

If you cater a lot of events, your insurance should cover that. If you only cater a few events a year, it may be more cost effective to get individual coverage for each event. Talk to a qualified agent when making these types of considerations.

Specialized Ingredients

There are definite trends in the food industry considering types of foods. Such trends include organic, raw, local, and gluten-free food, just to name a few. As times change and certain foods fall in and out of fashion, you may want to consider your liability that comes with each new trend.

While health considerations are a main driver of these types of trends, it does not exclude them from the risk of contamination. While large retailers have strong food recalls in place, smaller local farmers may not have as much experience of control. You should ask to see their proof of liability insurance when making a deal with them. In addition, it is a good idea that they are insured with a reputable insurance carrier and that your restaurant is added as an additional insured.

Customer Credit Protection & Cyber Security

Every day there are more and more ways for customers to pay for their meals. An increasing trend is to accept forms of payment over a website or on a customer’s smart phone. With more ways to accept payment comes more potential liability.

To protect themselves, restaurant owners should consider cyber liability insurance. This will protect them in the event they are hacked into and customers suffer from credit damage as a result.

Restaurant Workplace Liability: Slips, Trips, and Falls

In the restaurant and food industry in Southern California, slip, trip and fall injuries are some of the most common Workers’ Compensation claims.

According to OSHA, “Slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.”

Employers are responsible for the safety and health of their employees. In addition to OSHA requirements, employers who follow a good safety program will benefit from the reduction in the cost of their workers’ compensation insurance premiums over time.

To help prevent slip, trip, and fall injuries, OSHA requires that restaurants do the following:

  • Keep all places of employment clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition [1910.22(a)(1)].
  • Keep floors clean and dry [1910.22(a)(2)]. In addition to being a slip hazard, continually wet surfaces promote the growth of mold, fungi, and bacteria that can cause infections.
  • Provide warning signs for wet floor areas [1910.145(c)(2)].

Invensure offers industry specific safety programs and insurance for the food industry and restaurants in California. There is a special Workers’ Compensation Cost Reduction Program specifically geared to the food industry that is designed to lower risk and associated costs.

Call (800) 331-4700 to learn more.