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Should restaurants pay staff for mandatory meetings?

staff meeting
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If we are required to attend a mandatory waitstaff meeting, should we expect to get paid?

– Jill, Server, Affairs Catering, Rowley, Mass.


Staff meetings are useful for team building, training, policy announcements or reminders, and professional development, but can represent an unnecessary expense if not used judiciously. While local laws vary, in general, employees attending mandatory meetings must be paid at minimum wage or higher. The U.S. Department of Labor fact sheet reads:

Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs: Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed.” Since your meeting is mandatory and job-related, it would be considered work and should be paid.

An article by Ellis Roanhorse reads: “Non-salaried employees must be paid for all time spent at mandatory meetings. Additionally, you must pay your non-salaried employees overtime, if attending a mandatory meeting results in the non-salaried worker going over 40 hours in a given work week. Although paying non-salaried employees for attendance is required by law, scheduling mandatory meetings only during an employee's usual work days is not.

Many employers misstep by assuming that since a meeting may not be particularly productive for them (meaning it does not result in sales or production), it is somehow “outside” of work or should not be paid. Even if the meeting is fun, includes refreshments, or can be of benefit to the employee (such as guest services training that can help servers earn more tips), it is work. My advice is for employers and employees to clarify expectations for mandatory meetings in advance: the expected duration, whether the meeting will be mandatory or voluntary, and pay rate. Going through these questions may prompt the restaurant to think differently about delivering the material on the meeting’s agenda. Would a written memo, short preshift meeting, video conference or other format be a more efficient way to get through the material? Or is a meeting the right structure and worth the associated budget?

As always, local laws vary, so check with your restaurant association and attorney to be sure your practices are compliant. See a federal tool to help determine whether meetings would be considered hours worked here.

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