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San Diego County Restaurant Workers Report Wage Theft

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San Diego County Restaurant Workers Report Wage Theft
San Diego County Restaurant Workers Report Wage Theft
San Diego Restaurant Workers Report Wage Theft GUESTS: Peter Brownell, research director, Center on Policy Initiatives Jill Esbenshade, associate professor, San Diego State University's Department of Sociology Kadie Durocher, restaurant worker

WAGE THEFT, IT IS NOT A TIME YOU MAY BE FAMILIAR WITH BUT ACCORDING TO A NEW SURVEY IT HAPPENS TO RESTAURANT WORKERS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY WITH ALARMING FREQUENCY. WHEN A WORKER IS NOT PAID FOR TIME THAT THEY SPENT WORKING OFF THE CLOCK OR MANAGEMENT TAKES A PORTION OF THEIR TIPS. THE SURVEY SAYS THEY ARE A VICTIM OF WAGE THEFT AND THEIR EMPLOYEES ARE BREAKING THE LAW. 77% OF WORKERS SURVEYED STATED THAT EMPLOYEES HAVE STOLEN THEIR WAGES IN SOME WAY IN THE LAST YEAR. JOINING ME TO DISCUSS THE REPORT OUR DR. PETER BURNELL, RESEARCH DIRECTOR WITH THE CENTER ON POLICY INITIATIVES. PETER, IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU. ALWAYS A PLEASURE, MAUREEN. KATIE DEROSIER HAS WORKED IN SAN DIEGO RESTAURANTS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS. HELLO, KATIE. THANK YOU FOR COMING. WHY DID YOU DO THIS THAT HE? WAS THERE EVIDENCE THAT RESTAURANT WORKERS WERE BEING SHORTED? WE DID THE STUDY AS PART OF THE COMMENT EXPERIENCE HERE AT SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY, WHICH THIS YEAR IS FOOD. UNDER THAT TEAM, I APPLY FOR A RESEARCH GRANT TO CONDUCT A STUDY OF WORKERS THAT WERE INVOLVED WITH FOOD, SO RESTAURANT WORKERS. AND DOING A LITERATURE REVIEW OF RESTAURANT WORKERS ISSUES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WAGE THEFT WAS ONE OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING ISSUES THAT HAD BEEN FOUND IN OTHER CITIES. HOW WAS THE STUDY CONDUCTED HERE IN SAN DIEGO? I CONDUCTED IT WITH A TEAM OF 18 GRADUATE STUDENT DOES STUDENTS FROM OUR PROGRAM. WE SURVEY 337 WORKERS, DID IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS WITH 30 WORKERS AND DEMOGRAPHIC OBSERVATIONS WITH RESTAURANTS. IT IS CALLED A PILOT STUDY. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? BECAUSE WE ARE EXPLORING WHAT THE ISSUES ARE FOR RESTAURANT WORKERS. SO, WE REACHED OUT TO WORKERS THROUGH CHARLIE STOPS, OUTSIDE GROCERY STORES, AND CLASSES AT STS YOU AND COMMUNITY CLASSES AND ENCOURAGED ANYONE WHO WORKED IN THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY TO TAKE THE SURVEY. NOW, PETER, LET'S GO THROUGH SOME OF THE FINDINGS. WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON FORM OF WAGE THEFT? OTHER TYPES THAT WE EXAMINE IN THE SURVEY, THEY WERE REQUIRED TO COME IN BEFORE THEIR SHIFT STARTED AND PREPARE FOR THE DAY OR CONTINUE WORK THAT WASN'T FINISHED AFTER THEY ARE CLOCKED OUT AT THE END OF THE DAY. 61% OF THE WORKERS THAT WE SURVEYED REPORTED HAVING EXPERIENCE THAT AT 15% SAID THEY EXPERIENCE IT REGULARLY, WHICH IN THE SURVEY, WE QUANTIFY THEIR RESPONSE BEING ALWAYS OR OFTEN. JUST TO BE CLEAR IMAGES THAT YOU HAVE A SCHEDULE AMOUNT OF THESE YOU HAVE TO DO DURING YOUR WORKDAY. YOU HAVE TO, LET'S SAY, YOU HAVE TO START DOING THEM AT 8 O'CLOCK YOU HAVE TO, LET'S SAY, YOU HAVE TO START DOING THEM AT 8:00 AM, SO YOU ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO DO THEM AT 730, IS THAT RIGHT? THAT IS RIGHT. WHAT ARE OTHER WAYS THAT WORKERS PAYCHECKS ARE BEING SHORTCHANGED,.? SOME WORKERS DID NOT RECEIVE THE REQUIRED OVERTIME IF THEY WORKED MORE THAN 40 HOURS IN A WEEK. THERE IS A REQUIREMENT IF AN EMPLOYEE SHOWS UP FOR WORK AND IT SHOW THAT THERE IS AN WORK AVAILABLE THAT DAY, THEY ARE REQUIRED TO BE PAID A MINIMUM NUMBER OF HOURS TO REIMBURSE THEM FOR THE COST THAT THEY HAVE INVESTED IN TERMS OF TRANSPORTATION, CHILDCARE OR IF THEY HAVE FOREGONE OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK AT ANOTHER JOB. THOSE ARE SOME OF THE MAIN ONES. TIPPED WORKERS HAVE THEIR TIPS STOLEN FROM THEM IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. I WANTED TO ASK YOU MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE REPORTED TO A SHIFT THAT THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED TO AND THEN TOLD TO GO HOME EARLY BECAUSE THERE IS NOT ENOUGH WORK. YOU SAID THEY ARE REQUIRED TO BE PAID FOR A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF THAT TIME. WHY IS THAT A REQUIREMENT? THAT IS A STATE REQUIREMENT. THEY HAVE TO BE PAID AT LEAST TWO HOURS OR HALF OF THE HOURS THAT THEY WERE SCHEDULED FOR, WHICHEVER IS GREATER. KATIE, WHAT IS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THESE PARTICULAR WORKING CONDITIONS? HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO START OR FINISH YOUR SHIP WORKING OFF THE CLOCK? PERSONALLY I HAVE ENCOUNTERED THAT. ALTHOUGH, I SUPPOSE IT WAS SORT OF BE UNOFFICIAL. SOMETHING DONE AS A FAVOR. I ALMOST DIDN'T REALIZE THAT I WAS DOING IT, YOU KNOW? MY EXPERIENCE WAS MORE UNDER NOT KNOWING WHAT MY RIGHTS WERE. FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I WORKED AT A RESORT HOTEL, I WAS TOLD THAT IF WERE SOME REASON THE WORLD CHARGE WAS NOT PUT ON A CHECK AND THE GUESTS NAME WAS ILLEGIBLE AND WE WERE NOT ABLE TO FIND OUT WHO WAS IN THAT ROOM, I WOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT BILL. THAT IS JUST SOMETHING MADE UP AND NOT ENTIRELY LEGAL, IS THAT RIGHT? THAT IS ABSOLUTELY ILLEGAL. EMPLOYEES CANNOT HAVE THE WAGES THE DUCTED OR THINGS LIKE THAT LIKE WHERE A CUSTOMER MAY NOT PAY OR FOR ANY WRECKAGE IS THAT MAY OCCUR OR IF THE CASH REGISTER COMES UP SHORT. THAT IS ILLEGAL UNDER STATE LAW FOR THE EMPLOYER TO DEDUCT THOSE COSTS FROM THE EMPLOYEE'S WAGES OR TIPS. DO YOU THINK THAT EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES ARE MAYBE NOT AWARE OF SOME OF THE RULES THAT SURROUND THE MINIMUM CALL IN PAY OR OVERTIME? JILL, DO YOU HAVE A FEELING ON THAT? YES. IT WAS CLEAR ON THE SURVEYS AS WELL AS THE INTERVIEWS THAT EMPLOYEES ARE LARGELY NOT AWARE OF MANY OF THESE LAWS. FOR INSTANCE, WITH THE REPORTING TIME PAY, WE SURVEY PEOPLE WHO SAID NO, THEY HAVE NEVER HAD SUCH A VIOLATION. BUT THEN IT TURNED OUT THEY WILL GO TO WORK AND BE TOLD AFTER TWO HOURS OF A SIX HOUR SHIFT, WE ARE SLOW. GO HOME. THEY DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THAT TO BE ILLEGAL. IC. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT. DO YOU THINK THAT EMPLOYERS THEMSELVES ALSO DO NOT UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE RULES THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE REQUIRED TO LIVE BY, PETER? I IMAGINE THAT. I THINK THEY HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO COMPLY WITH THE LAW. I THINK IT IS CERTAINLY TRUE THAT BOTH EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS NEED TO BE MADE AWARE OF THE LAW. I REALLY DO FEEL LIKE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO COMPLY REALLY REST ON THE SHOULDER OF THE EMPLOYER. I WAS JUST GOING TO ADD THAT WE HOPE THAT THIS REPORT WILL ACTUALLY BE A FOOL FOR EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS TO DOCUMENT AND EXPLAIN WHAT THE LAW IS BEFORE WE GO INTO THE SURVEY FINDINGS. WE HOPE IT WILL BE A TOOL. IT IS AVAILABLE IN BOTH SPANISH AND ENGLISH ON THE CPI WEBSITE. KATIE, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE AFTER HAVING READ THIS REPORT. DID ANY OF THESE THINGS RING TRUE ABOUT THE TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT ISSUES THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO? I REALLY THINK THAT IT IS RAMPANT IN THE INDUSTRY. FOR EXAMPLE, NOT TAKING BREAKS. EMPLOYEES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TAKING HALF AN HOUR BREAK THAT THEY WORK OVER SIX HOURS. I WAS ACTUALLY ASKED TO SIGN A WAIVER TO WAIVE MY RIGHT TO TAKE BREAKS AT THE RESORT THAT I WORKED AT. I GOT A SKETCHY FEELING ABOUT THAT AND REFUSED TO SIGN IT. AND THEN THERE WAS A CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT AS A RESULT. EMPLOYEES FINDING OUT THAT THAT WAS THE RIGHT. IN TERMS OF SOME OF THESE THINGS BEING CONSISTENT IN THE INDUSTRY, I HIGHLY AGREED THAT THEY ARE. I AGREE THAT MANY EMPLOYEES ARE NOT AWARE OF WHAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE. EVEN IF THEY ARE, I THINK IN MANY CASES THEY ARE AFRAID OF RETRIBUTION AND LOSING THEIR JOBS. WE INVITED, BY THE WAY, CHRIS DUGGAN, THE DIRECTOR OF GOVERNOR. AFFAIRS IN SAN DIEGO FOR THE CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION. HE WAS NOT ABLE TO JOIN US. HE DID SEND US A STATEMENT IN THAT STATEMENT REASON PART, THE CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION HAS ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WAGE THEFT, DISCRIMINATION, OR ANY LEGAL PRACTICES. THE CRA PROVIDES MANY RESOURCES TO ENSURE THAT OUR MEMBERS DO NOT ENGAGE IN THESE ACTIVITIES. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS STUDY COMBINES LEGAL VIOLATIONS WITH THE AUTHOR'S BLATANT POLITICAL AGENDA. I WANTED TO ASK YOU ABOUT THAT PETER, AND JILL. IS THERE A POLITICAL AGENDA THAT GOES ALONG WITH THIS MATERIAL? IS IT A POLITICAL AGENDA TO BELIEVE THAT WORKERS SHOULD BE PAID FOR THE WAGES THEY ARE AND ARE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO? I THINK OUR CONCERN IS REALLY WITH THE WORKING PEOPLE WHO WORK IN SAN DIEGO'S RESTAURANTS AND MAKING SURE THEY GET EVERYTHING THAT THEY ARE ENTITLED TO. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING WE MADE UP. THIS IS SOMETHING COMING DIRECTLY FROM WORKERS THAT WERE INTERVIEWED. WE WERE FOCUSING ON THIS ISSUE BECAUSE REPORTS DONE FOR THE US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ARE -- HAVE FOUND THIS TO BE A WIDESPREAD PROBLEM IN CALIFORNIA AND OTHER CITIES SUCH AS LOS ANGELES. I ABSOLUTELY AGREE THAT WE FEEL THIS IS IMPORTANT. IS MAKING THIS ISSUE KNOWN IS IN THE EYES OF THE CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION A BIAS OR AGENDA, WE CERTAINLY DO HAVE THE AGENDA THAT PEOPLE SHOULD GET PAID FOR WHAT THEY ARE OLD. JILL, IN ANY OF THESE COMPOUNDS ESTIMATES, DO YOU ESTIMATE A DOLLAR AMOUNT THE WAGE THEFT IS COSTING RESTAURANT WORKERS IN SAN DIEGO? NO WE DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH SPECIFIC INFORMATION TO ESTIMATE THE AMOUNT THAT WORKERS ARE BEING OLD. IT IS CLEAR THAT THE MAJORITY OF WORKERS ARE OLD WAGES. THE SURVEY ALSO FOUND A VERY CONFUSING SYSTEM ABOUT THE WAY TIPS ARE COLLECTED. EVEN STOLEN TIPS. OUT OF THE WORKERS THAT WERE TIPPED WORKERS, WHICH WAS 208, ONE OUT OF FIVE WAS EXPERIENCING SOME TYPE OF TIP THAT. WE DOCUMENTED THREE DIFFERENT TYPES, MANAGERS AND SUPERVISORS TAKING TIPS THAT BELONGED TO WORKERS, MANAGERS REDUCING WORKERS TIPS -- EXCUSE ME, REDUCING WAGES BY THE AMOUNT OF TIPS AND ALSO DEDUCTING CREDIT CARD FEES FROM TIPS. ALL OF THESE ARE ILLEGAL. WHAT WAS STRIKING WAS 20% OF THE WORKERS HAD EXPERIENCED SOME SORT OF TIP BATH AND AN EVEN HIGHER PERCENTAGE DID NOT EVEN KNOW. IT WAS VERY LOW PERCENTAGES THEY DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE OTHER QUESTIONS. TIP DEATHS IS CLEARLY SOMETHING OBSCURE TO THE WORKERS. IN THE IN DEPTH INTERVIEWS WITHOUT A PLETHORA OF DIFFERENT SYSTEMS FOR DISTRIBUTING TIPS. SOME RESTAURANTS HAVE SERVERS AND ARE TENDERS TIPPING OTHER WORKERS OUT IN A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE. SOME HAVE SERVERS AND BARTENDERS TIPPING BARTENDERS AT THEIR OWN GENEROSITY. THERE IS A VERY CHANGEABLE SYSTEM FROM RESTAURANT TO RESTAURANT AND EVEN FROM SERVER TO SERVER, MANAGER TO MANAGER SOMETIMES. WORKERS HAVE A LOT OF TROUBLE KEEPING TRACK OF WHAT TIPS THEY ARE OLD, ESPECIALLY WHEN TIPS ARE ON CREDIT CARDS. IT IS VERY HARD TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE OLD AND TO KEEP TRACK OF THAT. IT IS A VERY COMPLEX, OBSCURE SYSTEM THAT SHOULD NOT BE EXTENDED TO INTERFERE WITH WAGES. KATIE, I WOULD IMAGINE WHEN YOU GO IN AND ARE HIRED AS A RESTAURANT WORKER, YOU LOOK AT THE POLICY THAT THEY HAD WHERE YOU BEEN HIRED AND YOU JUST SAY OKAY. THAT IS HOW THEY DO IT HERE. YES. SHE BROUGHT UP A REALLY INTERESTING POINT. I WORKED AT ONE RESTAURANT ONE NIGHT AND THEN I LEFT. WE WERE REQUIRED TO TIP OUT SIX PEOPLE. TO BARTENDERS, A HOSTESS, THE DISHWASHER, THE COOKS, OUT OF THE TIPS THAT WE HEARD AND ARE PAYING TAXES ON. THE PEOPLE RECEIVING THESE GENEROUS TIPS ARE NOT PAYING TAXES ON IT, WE ARE. I THOUGHT THAT MAYBE THEY SHOULD RAISE THE WAGES OF THEIR EMPLOYEES AND NOT MAKE ME PAY THEIR WAGES OUT OF MY TIPS. THERE IS ALSO A SECTION, PETER, ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK AT THE BACK OF THE RESTAURANT. IT IS A SECTION ABOUT DISCRIMINATION AND WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO BE SHORT IN RESTAURANTS. TELL US ABOUT THAT. WE LOOKED THROUGH A NUMBER OF METHODS, BOTH IN TERMS OF LOOKING AT CENSUS BUREAU DATA ON WHO HOLDS WHAT KINDS OF OCCUPATIONS IN THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRIES. SOME STUDENTS WENT TO HIGH-END RESTAURANTS AND OBSERVED WHO HELD THE POSITIONS IN THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE. WHAT WE BASICALLY FOUND WAS THAT WORKERS ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE LATINO THEM WHITE IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE AS PEOPLE MAY IMAGINE. EVEN WITHIN FROM OF THE HOUSE OCCUPATIONS, THE SERVERS WHO ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE TIPPED ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE WHITE WHEREAS THE BUSSER AND BUSBOYS ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE LATINO. WE THINK THIS IS A PROBLEM. ONE OF THE THINGS WE HAVE REALLY RECOMMEND IS THAT RESTAURANTS REALLY NEED TO FOCUS ON CREATING INTERNAL CAREER LADDERS SO THAT FOLKS WHO ARE WORKING IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO BE TRAINED AND PROMOTED INTO THE POSITIONS THAT PAY BETTER AND RECEIVE BETTER TIPS. IN LOOKING INTO THIS FOR OUR DISCUSSION TODAY, APPARENTLY THERE HAS BEEN SOME NATIONAL STUDIES AND COLUMNS WRITTEN ABOUT WAGE THEFT AND OTHER AREAS OF THE COUNTRY. IS WAGE THEFT AROUND THE NATION ON THE RISE? I THINK AWARENESS OF WAGE THEFT IS ON THE RISE. THERE ARE BILLS PENDING IN DIFFERENT STATES TO TRY TO DEAL WITH SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT HAVE COME UP AROUND THIS. FOR INSTANCE, IN CALIFORNIA, THERE IS A WAGE LIEN BILL BEING DISCUSSED IN THE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATOR TO HELP WORKERS RECUPERATES MONIES ONCE THEY GET A JUDGMENT ON A WAGE THEFT CLAIM. EVEN IF YOU ARE ABLE TO GO THROUGH THE ENTIRE PROCESS, WHICH IS A LONG PROCESS, TO MAKE A CLAIM AND THEN GET A JUDGMENT, IT IS VERY HARD FOR PEOPLE TO RECUPERATE THAT MONEY FROM THE EMPLOYER. WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS STRONGER LAWS THAT STRENGTHEN ENFORCEMENT AND ALL THE RESOURCES THAT STRENGTHEN ENFORCEMENT. OR EXAMPLE, IN CALIFORNIA, THERE ARE FEWER THAN 100 INVESTIGATORS FOR 18 MILLION WORKERS. REALLY, THE ONLY COMPLAINTS THEY CAN DEAL WITH OUR WHEN WORKERS COME FORWARD, WHICH AS KATIE POINTED OUT, THEY ARE RISKING THEIR JOBS TO DO. IN THE CLASS ACTION SUIT THAT SHE WAS SPEAKING OF, SHE GOT FIRED IN RETALIATION FOR JOINING BEST TO. WORKERS ARE VERY AFRAID TO COME FORWARD AND OFTEN ONLY DO SO ONCE THEY FINISH WORKING AT THAT JOB. AS A STATE, WE NEED TO PRIORITIZE THE RESOURCES TO HAVE MORE PERSONNEL SO THAT THEY CAN DO PROACTIVE INVESTIGATIONS. IF PEOPLE WANT TO LOOK AT THIS WHOLE REPORT WHERE SHOULD THEY GO? IT IS ON THE CENTER AND POLICY INITIATIVE WEBSITE WHICH IS WWW.ONLINE.CPR.ORG. THEY CAN ALSO SIGN UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES FROM OUR ORGANIZATION. VERY WELL. THANK YOU SO MUCH. I APPRECIATE IT. ACCU MAUREEN. THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

SHORTED: Wage Theft, Time Theft, and Discrimination in San Diego County Jobs
New survey on wages in San Diego's restaurant industry by SDSU and the Center on Policy Initiatives
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A new study finds that some of the 125,700 restaurant workers in San Diego County are getting short-changed on their earnings.

The study by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a San Diego nonprofit that advocates for the working poor, and San Diego State University's Sociology Department found 77 percent of the 337 workers surveyed have been victims of wage theft during the past year, with a third saying it happens regularly.

“In this pilot study, overwhelming numbers of restaurant workers reported they had been cheated of money they are owed in wages and tips, as well as their break time and personal time, ” Jill Esbenshade, SDSU professor and lead investigator, said in a news release.

Esbenshade told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday the study was conducted with the help of 18 graduate students who found restaurant workers throughout the county to take the survey. Of those surveyed, 30 were given in-depth interviews.

In response to the study, the California Restaurant Association said it has zero tolerance for wage theft, discrimination or any illegal practices.

"The CRA provides many resources to ensure our members do not engage in these activities. Unfortunately, this study combines potential legal violations with the authors’ blatant political agenda,” said Chris Duggan, director of local government affairs in San Diego for the restaurant group. "Any violations of current law are concerning. California has a number of laws and departments in place to address and enforce workplace regulations. The California Restaurant Association will continue to provide our members and the industry with the resources they need to ensure 100 percent compliance with these regulations.”

Peter Brownell, research director at the Center on Policy Initiatives, said the study’s only agenda was to make the information known.

“I absolutely agree we feel this is important,” Brownell said on KPBS Midday. “We certainly do have the agenda that people should be paid for what they are owed.”

Among the study's findings:

• 60 percent reported working unpaid and off-the-clock either before or after their recorded work hours.

• 30 percent reported working overtime without being paid the required time-and-a-half rate.

• More than three-quarters of those surveyed reported they have gone to work when they’re sick, injured, or in pain.

• Wage theft most often targeted women, Latinos, and “back-of-the-house” staff.