UnderCover Waitress: Sidework in Florida

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sidework in Florida

Ask the Waitress!

An overworked waitress in Florida is wondering which additional tasks she can be required to do. It seems her employer has cut bus staff and has no hostess. Her "waitress" job duties now include:

* clear tables
* scrape and stack dishes in kitchen
* clean table (and I assume set the table for the next seating)
* seat customers
* take payment.

She doesn't mention answering the telephone, but I wonder who is doing that...?

I am assuming that she still has the typical waitress side work, such as polishing silverware, polishing glassware, putting clean dishes away, and the various and sundry cleaning tasks in the dining room.

Welcome to the gulag. Any employer can figure out that paying waitresses to do the work of bussers and hostesses savess him money. Waitresses make less than minimum wage, but bussers and hostesses must be paid at least minimum wage. So, if waitresses are doing the work of bussers, the employer saves money.

On a slow shift this may actually be preferable, because bussers must tipped out. If it is slow and the waitress can handle the extra work, then she saves money by not having to share her tips.

Before I get into the legalities of non-tipped work, the question included concern about hygiene and food handling. I shouldn't have to tell anybody who is already working in a restaurant this: WASH YOUR HANDS. There is no cleanliness reason that a waitress can not scrape food off of plates. There is, however, a reason to wash hands afterward.

The Department of Labor requires that tipped employees spend no more than twenty percent of their time doing non-tipped work. If they spend more than twenty percent of their time performing non-tipped duties, such as cleaning, then the employer must pay them full minimum wage for the non-tipped work hours.

For example, let's say a waitress works a five hour shift. She spends four hours waiting tables and one hour cleaning. The employer pays her $4.65 per hour for five hours, and she also takes home her tips. Everything is legal and good.

Another example: a waitress works a six hour shift. She spends four hours waiting tables and two hours performing other duties, such as mopping the floor, cleaning the bar and cleaning the bathrooms. She has a spent a full third of her time performing non-tipped work, or thirty three percent of her time. The employer must, by law, pay her full minimum wage for two hours, and $4.65 for four hours. As always, she takes home her tips for the four hours of tipped employee work.

Make sense?

So, not hiring bussers and requiring waitresses to bus and turn their tables does not break any laws. It does put extra pressure on waitresses to move faster. And it puts them in a position of working harder for less money, because if they can't get the table cleared it can't get sat.

The federal government does not mandate which job duties a waitress can and can not be required to do. Some states have rules that state all sidework must relate to the dining room. In California, New York, and Massachusetts, waitresses may not be told to go outside to wash windows or to clean the bathrooms.

On the other hand, which sidework relates to the dining room is a bit of a gray area. For example, the bar is situated in the dining room. So, can a waitress be required to clean the bar? It's a good question.

In Florida, to the best of my knowledge there are few to no regulations regarding what sidework a waitress may be required to perform.

So, in the end, the answer is that requiring waitresses to bus their tables is perfectly legal.

And, my disclaimer: Remember, guys, this is not legal advice. This blog is for information and entertainment, but I'm not a lawyer -- I'm just a stupid waitress! ;-D

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