Wage theft is a national problem, especially in low-wage industries. In cities and states previously studied, the restaurant industry has consistently been found to be one of the most abusive. In San Diego County, 125,700 people –
nearly one-tenth of all workers – are employed in restaurants, and the industry is growing at almost double the rate of overall employment in the county. This survey of 337 employees of restaurants throughout San Diego County uncovered disturbing numbers of legal violations and other exploitative workplace practices among restaurants of all kinds – from fast food to fine dining. This is a pilot study that offers a glimpse into the work lives of San Diegans employed in the restaurant industry, and highlights issues that warrant further exploration and the urgent development of policy solutions. Survey respondents included employees of at least 163 distinct workplaces scattered throughout San Diego County and probably substantially more. We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 survey respondents to clarify and enrich the findings, analyzed census data and collected observational data at 40 top local restaurants. Many of the findings replicate what has been found in studies conducted elsewhere.
|El reporte en español está disponible aquí
- Wage Theft: More than three-quarters (77%) of 337 restaurant employees surveyed have been victims of wage theft by their employers during the past year, and a third said it happens regularly. Restaurants’ varying systems of distributing tips are confusing and open to abuse.
- Break Violations & Fraud: Nearly a quarter of our sample said employers made them falsely record taking unpaid meal breaks. More than 80% reported violations of their legal rights to breaks, either working more than 6 hours without having a meal break or being prevented or discouraged from taking rest breaks.
- Time Theft & Unstable Schedules: Most workers surveyed get their work schedules less than a week in advance and 85% get less than two weeks’ notice. Other common practices, such as on-call and open-ended scheduling, rob employees of their personal time.
- Sick Time & Health: More than three-quarters (78%) of workers in the sample have gone to work when they’re sick, injured, or in pain, and 65% have done so repeatedly. Only 11% reported having any paid sick time, and only 17% get any health insurance from their jobs.
- Discrimination: In our survey, wage theft most often targeted women, Latinos, and “back-of-the-house” staff. Observational data on 40 high-end local restaurants show white males disproportionately represented in “front-of-the-house” jobs.
How is this issue effecting San Diegans?
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