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.

California Food Handler Card: Law SB 602 Requires Food Safety Training

Starting in June of 2011, California law SB 602 began to require that all restaurant food handlers take a food safety training course and pass a test. Once the test is passed, they would receive a California Food Handler Card. The questions that beg to be asked are: How many restaurant owners know about this law? How many restaurant “food handlers” have these cards? The answer is not very many.

California Food Handler Card

Food handlers in California restaurants are required by law to have a California Food Handler Card

In case if you didn’t know, here is an overview:

In California, people who prepare, serve, or store food for a restaurant are required to have a California Food Handler Card. Within 30 days of being hired, a food handler must take a certified food safety course and pass a test with a score of 70% or higher.

The law does not apply to food handlers in Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego counties, but the cards are required in the rest of the state of California. The counties mentioned above have more specific laws regarding this issue.

Once the employee receives the card, they are to make a copy of the card and give it to the employer. In turn, the employer is required to keep records of all employees and ensure their cards are up to date. This is required by law.

Health inspectors enforce the law and they will ask for the records during an inspection.

For the fill text of SB 602, click here.

The classes are inexpensive, the law says that there must be at least one course that costs no more than $15, and the law caps fees at $60 for testing and certificate to ensure affordability for food handlers. The law does not specify if the employer or employee is responsible for the cost of testing and food safety certification.

Apparently, there is another bill in the works, SB 303, that will clarify the message of the first bill.

Stay tuned. If you want to receive updates on the subject, sign up for our RSS feed.