Fast-Food Employees Can't Afford to Leave Any Money on the Table

According to a report released earlier this month, 59 percent of Texas fast-food employees rely on some form of public assistance to support their families. Recent strikes in Houston, Dallas, and Austin have focused on the fact that employees are whipsawed between compensation that has less purchasing power than it did in 1968 and the growth of part-time work, especially in low-wage sectors of the economy.

Faced with this situation, it’s important to understand the purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act and what a lawyer can do for clients. The FLSA was designed to stabilize the economy and protect employees in the labor force. It establishes a minimum wage, requires payment of one and a half times base pay after a 40-hour workweek, and regulates the way in which hours are counted.

Unfortunately, not all Texas employers are willing or able to ensure that their compensation practices are fair and legal. When necessary, an employee can work with an attorney to help him or she get paid for every hour worked. This includes working through an unpaid lunch, prep time before a scheduled shift, or hours after the end of a shift. Because of the obvious difference in bargaining power, parties may not agree to waive the provisions of the law with respect to a lower rate of pay or additional hours at no compensation. The law also imposes strict record-keeping requirements on employers.

If you have questions about your compensation or believe that your employer may be violating your rights under federal or state wage laws, an employment attorney can help to evaluate your situation.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "Majority of Texas Fast-Food Workers on Public Assistance," Corrie MacLaggan, Oct. 15, 2013