The news lately has been full of restaurant fuck-ups that create headaches for customers...and hardships for employees. While the restaurant industry as a whole serves a very useful purpose -- it sells prepared meals to people who need and want them, provides a flow of tax money to communities, and offers wage employment without requiring a ton of experience or higher-learning qualifications -- a few bad apples can leave a very bad taste.
Here's a list of five ways that restaurants screw their employees. The least they could do is buy their workers dinner first....
5) They run ridiculous ad campaigns that make employees' jobs harder for no good reason.
McDonald's is in the news again -- fat shocker -- for its latest advertising-stunt proposal, which is to test-run a new drive-thru system that would give customers their food for free if the workers don't have it out to them in sixty seconds or fewer. To check the speed of service, selected Florida locations are giving customers timers -- but since the clock doesn't start until after customers pay, the stopwatch system simply focuses on the time between the pay window and the drop window, which really wasn't the slowest part of the line in the first place.
Having embattled fast-food workers sprint like a race-track pit crew (for no extra pay) will likely increase the chances for rushed-order mistakes, making jobs harder than they have to be -- and in the meantime, customers gain nothing but a free burger or two.
4) They act like racist assholes.
Here's a fine idea! Let's have the biggest Mexican fast-food chain in America make damn sure it doesn't hire any Hispanic people! In a recent news story that almost (but not quite) defies belief, a former Taco Bell regional manager was terminated for hiring Hispanic workers. Sixty-year-old Juanita O'Connell, who is part Hispanic, was allegedly told by Taco Bell Operations Leader Mark Lewis (total white bro name) not to hire Hispanics, and when he dropped by O'Connell's store one day and saw a Hispanic person working there, O'Connell was given the boot on flimsy pretexts.
Most of the time our country's penchant for litigation is annoying as all hell -- but in this case, O'Connell decided to sue for wrongful termination, and it smells like Taco Bell might be serving up some Mexican pizzas with a side of out-of-court settlement.
3) They play a rousing game of dodgeball with overtime pay. Subway restaurants have proved to be surprisingly adept at marketing five-dollar footlong sandwiches--and even more clever at avoiding paying its employees for overtime. Former sandwich artist Erwin Moya is suing a Washington state Subway franchise, alleging two years' worth of pay he was screwed out of when the franchise owner pretended he was multiple workers, and paid multiple paychecks to keep his weekly hours at forty or under. Moya says he worked an average of seventy hours a week, and was paid under his own name, under a fake name, and also put on the payroll of another store, so the owner could dodge both overtime and minimum wage requirements.
For more ways restaurants screw employees, read on.
2) They penalize female employees for having children.
There has been a rash of lawsuits filed lately by women who were fired from food-service industry jobs and claim their pregnancies were the reason. Jacqueline Johnson says she was canned from a John Barleycorn sports bar via a text message from her manager reading: "I can't have you work while you are pregnant. It's too much of a liability for the bar. I don't want to chance if anything was to happen. I'm sorry." The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, making it illegal to fire pregnant women simply because they are pregnant, but it appears that some employers don't get it -- or just don't care.
For the first time in thirty years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just issued guidelines on how to enforce the laws protecting pregnant women from discrimination, and those guidelines reinforce the fact procreation can't get you ousted from your job -- which should be obvious but isn't.
1) They make sure they aren't the ones paying for wages or health care.
Random Minnesota restaurant owner temper tantrums over the Affordable Health Care Act and minimum wage hikes reached a peak last week when one Minnesota eatery added 35-cent "minimum wage fee" tolls to checks, and another issued a credit-card fee that will skim off about 2 to 3 percent from servers' tips each time a customer doesn't pay with cash.
These loopholes are legal, unfortunately, but effectively shaking down already-low-paid restaurant staff is unethical in the extreme, because employees have no control over how customers pay their tabs. Punishing workers by making sure customers see and feel the burn over employee health care widens the "us-versus-them" gap that already exists.
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It's no surprise that some restaurant owners and operators are always trying to pass the buck for covering their employees' still-sorry hourly wages. What's surprising is that they keep finding new ways to do it.