3 new labor pains for restaurateurs

Unsplash Fabrizio Magoni

Restaurateurs learned of new complications last week in their role as employers, including a possible boost in the wages paid by a competing field. In case you missed the developments, here’s a quick recap.

NYC looks at a pay increase for ride-share drivers

New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission wants to raise the pay of drivers for Uber, Lyft and other on-demand ride services by 22%, a move that could heighten the attraction of a field that experts say is already pulling potential hires away from restaurants. However, the commission contends that mandating a minimum hourly wage of $17.22 would have the opposite effect because ride-sharing services would be less likely to add drivers.

The possibilities were raised last week by the release of a study commissioned the city. The report supports the Commission’s contention that mandating a minimum wage for drivers would not up-end the fledgling ride-sharing business, which now provides roughly twice the rides that taxis do. The services will be able to absorb a minimum wage, plus provide paid leave time as a benefit, by shaving their commissions, packing 2.4 more minutes of drive time into each hour a driver is behind the wheel, and raising rates no more than 5%, according to the research.

Whatever the outcome, restaurateurs elsewhere may feel it along with their colleagues in New York. “This policy may well serve as a model for other cities,” states the study, which notes that shared-services companies have never been required to pay their independent contractors a minimum wage. “The policy will also be a model in setting the first pay standards for independent contractors in the United States.

Trump’s resort wants its share of seasonal immigrants

The restaurant industry isn’t happy about President Trump’s efforts to reduce the immigrant labor pool. It likely won’t be overjoyed by the hiring strategy of the chief executive’s flagship hospitality business, either, though for entirely different reasons. The Trump family’s Mir-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., has filed a request with the Department of Labor to hire 21 cooks and 40 servers under the federal H-2B seasonal-worker visa program, a significant number given the plan’s limitations. If the request is okayed, the new hires would work from October 1 through May 31, at pay rates of about $13.31 an hour for cooks and $12.68 an hour for waiters and waitresses.

The industry has been pushing the federal government to increase the number of H-2B visas it issues per year, in large part because of seasonal operations’ difficulties in finding enough local workers to staff the business. The number is currently capped by law at 66,000 per year, with half of that number granted during the first six months of the federal fiscal year (October through March) and the other half for the latter portion of the fiscal period. 

Policing paid-leave rules

Restaurants are often accused of violating complicated wage and overtime regulations, but the allegations leveled last week against a regional operation by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine may have broken new ground. A lawsuit filed by Racine also charges the Turning Natural juice-bar operation with failing to provide paid sick days to employees, a charge that may become more common as paid leave is mandated by more jurisdictions.

The action provides detailed information about Turning Natural’s alleged violations of the district’s wage and overtime rules. For instance, it recounts employees’ objections to not getting a raise when higher minimums went into effect under local laws. But there is scant information on how the two-unit operation violated paid-leave rules, other than to note employees never took paid time off. The language of the complaint suggests Turning Natural’s alleged transgression was not providing the time, rather than refusing to grant it when an employee asked to take off. 

Racine’s action seeks back wages and other forms of restitution. 

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