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New restaurant headaches arising in legislatures

Minimum-wage hikes? Paid sick leave? So yesterday, if you ask some lawmakers.  They’re already concocting new ways to benefit hourly workers at the expense of restaurant employers.

Lawmakers in San Francisco, for instance, have broken new ground by setting regulations for labor scheduling. Under a law approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, restaurants and other employers in the city will be required to forecast an employee’s hours by month and stick to that commitment, rather than staffing up or down as demand dictates.

The measure is intended to provide some predictability in hourly workers’ pay. They’ll know how much they’re due in their next month’s paycheck.

It is expected to affect some 40,000 employees.

Meanwhile, an architect of California’s new paid sick leave law is planning to introduce a bill that would require restaurants and retailers to double the pay of employees for hours clocked on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez favors such a measure because she doesn’t believe restaurants and stores should be open on the holidays. Having employees work those days is “a real slap in the face of family values,” she told the Sacramento Bee.

The San Diego Democrat says the measure would be a preferable curb on holiday hours than prohibiting businesses from operating that day.

Not all of the new stipulations are completely new. One of the reasons why Legal Sea Foods is being sued now for alleged tip violations is a change in Massachusetts’ minimum wage laws. Employees who sue for hourly compensation they feel was due them can now seek back pay for three years rather than two.

Two class-action suits accuse the polished-casual chain of forcing servers and bartenders to tip out to busboys and other employees for side work like rolling silverware in napkins. The plaintiffs contend that their tips were diverted to the fellow employees so Legal didn’t have to pay the non-servers the full minimum wage.

Legal denies the allegations and has vowed to defend itself vigorously.

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