Restaurant Owner Fails to Pay Waitress for Overtime Hours


This case involves a waitress in a Pennsylvania restaurant who was required to work overtime hours. The owner of the restaurant required the waitress to work between 80 and 100 hours per week and paid her only a $300 per week salary, an amount the waitress alleged was less than even the average annual pay of a stripper. The manager also had an illegal tip pooling scheme, where he also received partial payment from tips. The owner of the restaurant paid the waitress her salary in cash and did not keep any record of the hours that the waitress worked. The owner of the restaurant did not keep the waitress on his payroll system, even though she regularly worked her normal hours and also put in overtime hours. The owner of the restaurant also required the waitress to use her own money to purchase supplies for the restaurant and to pay for several bills that the restaurant incurred. The waitress believed that part of her employer’s payment practices stemmed from racial discrimination based on her Chinese ethnicity, and brought an unpaid wages claim against the restaurant for not paying her overtime and discriminatory payment practices.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can a waitress at a restaurant who is regularly required to work overtime sue the restaurant if they fail to pay her for her overtime hours?

Expert Witness Response

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to compensate employees for overtime hours by paying them a rate of one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for any time exceeding 40 hours a week. Many waitresses are required to set up the tables at a restaurant before they clock in. This means that the waitress may not be paid wages for the work that they have done setting up the tables before the restaurant opens. In this case, the employer was required by law to pay the waitress for all hours that she worked, including the overtime hours. Since the owner of the restaurant was only paying the waitress a $300 per week salary, he probably was not paying her the minimum wage. The laws of almost all states require that employers pay their employees the minimum wage for all hours that the employees work. This means that employees must be paid the minimum wage for all hours that they work, including hours that they work opening the business. In this case, the employer is liable for damages to the waitress for failing to pay overtime and probably for failing to pay her the minimum wage. If the waitress in this case was able to prove that the owner of the restaurant ‘willfully’ (i.e. intentionally and knowingly) failed to pay her wages, she would probably be awarded double damages in this case.

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