We all know that job hunting is a pretty stressful mission, so when you finally receive a job offer from that restaurant down the street from campus, you may be eager to accept it. The job might come with cool perks like food discounts and the ability to earn a nice paycheck, but there may be more aspects of the job that cost you rather than benefit you.

Whether you are considering accepting the job offer or you already have accepted it, it’s best to be aware of the federal labor laws that exist in order to prevent restaurants from taking advantage of you. College students are one of the most vulnerable groups of workers since we are usually new to the workforce and unfamiliar with the legal rights implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In some cases, it may even be concerning to discuss mistreatment with the restaurant managers due to fear of retaliation or losing your job. Getting educated on labor laws and employee rights can help address those concerns, so here are five facts to help you learn about them.

1. Your employer has to pay you for side work.

labor laws

Photo by Dylan Stilin

During a slow day at the restaurant, you may perform other tasks not related to serving, such as folding napkins or preparing silverware. This type of work wouldn’t be tipped since you’re not directly serving any customers. If you spend at least 20% of your shift performing tasks such as those, your employer must pay you the federal or state minimum wage rather than your base wage.

2. Not everyone should receive a share of tips.

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Photo by Jaye Lind

If your tips are being pooled and given to employees who don’t perform tipped work, such as managers and other back of house employees, this is a wage violation. Hostesses are able to receive a share of the tips earned as long as you are aware of it.

3. You should get paid for the training.

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Photo by Joann Jolly

If you attend a mandatory job training, then you must be paid at least minimum wage for the time you spent in the training. Voluntary training does not have to be compensated, so be sure to ask about these details before attending.

4. If a customer walks out without paying, it’s not always your responsibility.

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Photo by Becky Hughes

Your employer can deduct money from your paycheck if a customer walks out without paying only if it is evident that you made more than minimum wage during your work week. Since the minimum wage may differ in your state, the exact amount may vary, but your employer must be able to preserve the hourly minimum wage rate if they want to deduct from your pay.

To figure this out, you can divide the deduction amount by how many hours you work, then determine how much you actually made hourly based on tips, then add in your base pay. If the total is less than minimum wage, your employer cannot dock your pay to cover a customer walk-out expense.

5. If you are being mistreated, there is an anonymous and effective way to address it.

labor laws

Photo by Becky Hughes

Contacting the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division about your concern will not only make your employment more fair and satisfying, but it can potentially help your fellow co-workers and future employees. If your concern is investigated and enforcement takes place, your employer will not know who filed the complaint. This should reassure you that no retaliation or punishment occurs to you.

Overall, taking action in addressing restaurant employment violations is important because all workers should be treated fairly regardless of their knowledge, experience, or residential status. Holding the restaurant accountable for their violations is one way to spark a change in the industry, not only for yourself, but also for others around you and possibly even others seeking employment in the future.