What is the saying about New York? It is the city that never sleeps. It’s also the city that eats a lot of takeout! One of the amazing conveniences of New York City is that you can have virtually any food delivered to your door at any hour. We have all seen restaurant delivery workers zipping down the streets in all sorts of weather and traffic making sure your food arrives quickly. But do you ever think about the men and women making the deliveries? You probably don’t realize just how important those tips you give them may be.
A recent piece posted on Insider.com highlights some of the wage and hour issues facing this group of New York City workers. For the article, Insider spoke with delivery workers, lawmakers, activists, and lawyers, concluding that “despite recent advances in labor laws, many of the city’s restaurant workers are still overworked and underpaid.”
Many employees in this industry have been silent about the abuses and legal violations they experience because they are afraid to lose their jobs, especially those who may be undocumented immigrants. Another reason may be the common nature of the violations and the perception that it is the same no matter the restaurant or employer.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law require employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime and establish hundreds of other rules and regulations to follow when it comes to wages and hours. For instance, employees must earn at least the federal, state or minimum wage. When the local (state or city) minimum wage rate is higher, the higher rate prevails. If employees put in over 40 hours in a workweek, they must receive overtime pay at the rate of time-and-a-half. Employees also must be compensated for every hour they work.
Workers who regularly receive tips, such as wait staff and delivery people, are subject to a unique set of rules that apply only to them. For instance, for a worker who receives an average of at least 30 dollars per month, a fixed portion of gratuities may be used as a credit toward the employer’s minimum wage obligation. Because of this, tipped workers generally receive, from their employer, a lower cash minimum wage amount than other non-tipped employees. Tipped employees may not be asked to share or pool their gratuities with any employee who does not regularly get tips.
Looking at some of the unpaid wage claims and lawsuits employees have filed in recent years, it is easy to see how restaurant owners violate minimum wage laws. Consider the following cases:
The Domino’s case bears further review because it illustrates the various ways an employer may violate the law. It is not always as simple as not paying less than the minimum hourly wage. Carlos Rodriguez Herrera shared with Insider that in 2007 he was earning $4.40 per hour when the minimum wage for tipped workers was $4.60. Herrera also shared that many employees regularly worked well over 60 hours per week, but the employers paid them for only 40-45. Herrera alleges that when he asked for fair pay, his boss told him to leave if he did not like what he was getting. When he complained a second time to a manager, Herrera was fired.
After filing a complaint with the Department of Labor and no action for two years, Herrera and 60 other workers filed a class action against the owners of the 4 Domino’s locations. In addition to the allegations above, the workers claimed “they were forced to keep working after they’d clocked out and that managers would doctor time cards to pay employees less. They said they were denied breaks. They also said they were forced to perform non-tipped work, like cooking and cleaning, meaning they should have been paid the full minimum wage, not the reduced rate for employees who earn tips.” The employees received a judgment in their favor, but it did not end the abuses taking place in the New York City food delivery industry.
Do you work as a food delivery person for a restaurant or in a dual role? Are you receiving less than minimum wage or being forced to give your gratuities to a non-tipped employee or owner? If so, consider contacting Leeds Brown Law, P.C. – New York City’s experienced unpaid wage attorneys.
You and your co-workers may be able to file a claim or a class action to collect the wages and other monies that you work to secure. Don’t let your employer withhold pay or steal tips. Call Leeds Brown at 1-800-585-4658 for a free consultation.