WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / In-Depth Articles / Restaurant Labor Laws
Restaurant Labor Laws

Restaurant Labor Laws

Last updated on 6/20/2018

In order to protect workers and employers alike, there are a series of employment and labor laws all restaurant owners must abide by in order to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal law. To provide a safe, healthy, and fair workplace for their employees, The United States Department of Labor, as well as state and local governments, require businesses to follow the laws outlined below.

Restaurant Wages are Determined by the Fair Labor Standards Act

Restaurant labor laws include the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an act originally signed by Roosevelt in 1938, that explains the standards set for full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for businesses in the foodservice industry. Below are the FLSA requirements:

  • An establishment's annual gross sales must total at least $500,000 to be subject to FLSA rules / regulations
  • Entitles non-exempt workers to federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour unless an individual state's law requires a higher wage
  • Deductions for cash shortages, required uniforms, or customer walk-outs are illegal if they drop the employee's wage below the minimum wage
  • Tips may be considered part of wages, but the employer has to pay no less than $2.13 an hour and also make sure the tips add up to the minimum wage
  • Employees who work overtime are to be paid one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for each hour over 40 hours per week
  • Tipped employees who work overtime are to be paid one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage, not one and one-half times $2.13
  • Youth employees under the age of 20 may be paid a minimum wage of no less than $4.25 an hour during the first 90 days of their employment

For more information on the minimum cash and tipped wage in your state, check out this data from the United States Department of Labor.

Employing Youths

Young Cashier Employee

When scheduling workers under the age of 17, employers have to follow several FLSA guidelines for youth employees. Workers between the ages of 14 and 15 may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs for no more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. They also may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. except between June 1 and Labor Day, when those hours are extended until 9 p.m. 


Hazardous vs. Non-Hazardous Jobs

Employees who are 16 years old may perform any non-hazardous job for an unlimited amount of hours until they turn 18, and are considered adults. Any employee under the age of 18 is prohibited from performing hazardous job duties.

Hazardous Non-Hazardous
  • Using bakery equipment
  • Operating meat-processing equipment
  • Operating or maintaining power-driven equipment like slicers, grinders, mixers, etc.
  • Cashier and bagging duties
  • Fruit and vegetable cleaning / prep
  • Dish-washing
  • Light-duty cooking


The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

Employment Posters

OSHA was passed in 1970 to create healthier, safer working environments through training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA requires that all employers:

  • Provide a hazard communication program for employees
  • Train employees properly to prevent accidents
  • Provide necessary protective equipment
  • Have access to a first aid kit
  • Display posters from the Department of Labor or their state labor department that inform employees of their protections and rights (example seen to the right)


OSHA permits states to submit their own safety plans for approval. The following image indicates those states with OSHA-approved plans for private and public sector employees, or both.

OSHA Map


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

This commission reviews cases of discrimination and enforces the federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees based on the following:

  • Race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information
  • A complaint about discrimination on an employee's behalf

Laws enforced by the EEOC:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against someone for filing a charge, complaining of, or taking part in a lawsuit or investigation of discrimination.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act that outlaws discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to child birth
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 that makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 that protects people 40 and older from discrimination based on age.
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person because of a disability in both the public and private sectors. It also requires employers to reasonably accommodate physical or mental handicaps in their establishments where not doing so would cause undue hardship
  • Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that permits jury trials and monetary damage awards in intentional discrimination cases
  • Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the federal government
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 that makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants based on their genetic information that might identify family members, disease information, or disorders and conditions in the family's medical history


Related Resources

HACCP Training

What is a HACCP plan? Every finished product you serve to your customers goes through a number of steps from field to table, from growing, harvesting, and shipping to receiving, prepping, and serving. In each one of these steps, potential food safety hazards that might sicken or injure the final consumer are present. However, with careful planning, these hazards can be prevented, reduced to safe levels, or even eliminated altogether. That's where having a HACCP plan comes in. HACCP, or Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points , is a system that allows restaurant operators to recognize where in their process food is at risk for coming into contact with biological, chemical, or physical contaminants. The main goal of this food management

Protecting Your Recipes: Trade Secrets & Patents

Chefs and bartenders alike spend a lot of time in the kitchen or bar working to perfect their recipes. Sometimes, a truly special, totally unique dish or drink is created, and the first thought is, "I wonder how to get a patent for this recipe?" But is it even possible to patent a recipe? And if not, how does one protect their best kitchen secrets? Can I patent a recipe? The simple answer is no. While it is technically possible to obtain a patent on certain recipes, the likelihood and rate of patents being granted for recipes is so low that it is almost pointless to try and obtain one unless you own a chain of restaurants or are looking to franchise your business. The effort required to protect intellectual property, such as a secret recipe

Interview Questions For Restaurant Servers and Hosts

When interviewing potential employees for your restaurant, it’s important to ask the right questions to help you identify the strongest candidates. Knowing what answers to look for from candidates allows you to quickly weed out unqualified applicants and find the best talent for your business. We’ve compiled a list of important interview questions to ask servers and hosts and provided our reasoning behind asking these crucial questions. Interview Questions to Ask Restaurant Servers Your food or beverage business is a part of the larger hospitality industry, which means your future server needs to be personable, friendly, and adequately equipped to interact with the public. We’ve broken down our server interview questions for your candidate

Subscribe now for great deals and industry tips! Sign up for our mailing list to have weekly discounts and industry knowledge sent right to your inbox.

From Our

At WebstaurantStore we love sharing our fun! Check out some of our weekly Instagram posts! We might even have a recipe or two to share!

View Posts
Thanks to the heat-resistant nylon, this spoon can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The one-piece construction also eliminates hard to clean crevices that collect bacteria for a more sanitary kitchen tool. Plus, its seamless construction makes this spoon durable for long-lasting use.⠀ ⠀ When you need fast, accurate measurements for portion control, this Taylor mechanical portion control scale is the answer.⠀⠀ Dispense your condiments with ease with this Carlisle condiment pump kit! This condiment pump kit comes complete with an adjustable plastic pump and 5 lids to allow dispensing from most institutional-size containers. It's sure to save you time while minimizing the messes associated with transferring condiments to other dispensers. The pump can be set to dispense at either 0.5 oz. or 1 oz. portions per stroke using the included portion control clip, making it great for dispensing condiments, dressings, and sauces while controlling portions and ultimately, costs.⠀ ⠀ Send your snacks "on the go" with this Dart Solo Eco Friendly, Grease Resistent Munchie Cup. This container is perfect for packaging french fries, popcorn chicken, onion rings, and grilled vegetables with built-in venting that allows steam to escape, preventing soggy product. A unique, self-lidding, fold-down design keeps hot air in, while ensuring mess-free service. At the same time, the grease-resistant paper construction keeps grease inside the container, not on hands or surrounding surfaces.⠀ ⠀ ⠀
Food Service Resources

Tips, guides, & advice

Explore Resources
  • Visa
  • Discover
  • American Express
  • MasterCard
  • Paypal