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Should a restaurant worker get overtime for assisting in an emergency situation?

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Photo: Shutterstock


I am a tipped employee at a restaurant making minimum wage. My restaurant suffered a burst pipe, and it forced the restaurant to close for the day. I was made to work a seven hour day of doing kitchen prep, cleaning up water and throwing away damaged goods. Is my boss required to pay me overtime for this day? Or more?

– Server, NYC


Previously in this column, we discussed employees being asked to do things outside their usual job description, such as asking all staff to come in to deep clean, and whether an employee can opt out of such requests. This situation is different, however, due to the emergency nature of the burst pipe.

First, I’m sorry. The situation sounds rough and messy, resulting in lost revenue, supplies, tips, goodwill, and time. I’m sure there’s frustration among management, staff and guests, and certainly see why the cleanup would have been an all-hands situation to reopen as quickly as possible.

To your question, unless there is an applicable company policy or local regulation, there is no requirement that I am aware of that your employer pay overtime for these duties, unless it puts you over a 40-hour work week. That said, it might be a nice way for your employer to show appreciation for those employees who were able to step up.

In places where there is a tip credit, it is important that employers offer the full minimum wage and do not take the tip credit for hours like these.

As always, this column is not legal advice. Operators should check with their attorney and restaurant association for the latest guidance.

More on when to take the tip credit and when not to here.

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