To avoid the potential exposure of an employment lawsuit and/or Department of Labor inspection/audit, restaurants owners would be well-advised to take preventative measures to minimize employment law problems and, in the event of a claim, to put their businesses in the best possible position.

Although restaurants face a broad variety of employment law issues, the following checklist addresses the preventative measures all restaurants should take to deal effectively with six areas of concern:

Harassment and Discrimination:

A policy and complaint procedure that addresses workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, including employee training

Wage and Hour:

Review of compensation practices for compliance with federal and state laws relating to minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment

At-Will Employment:

A handbook provision, signed by employees, which emphasizing that they are employed at-will, and therefore subject to termination with or without cause or notice

Worker Eligibility:

Retaining completed I-9 forms for employees in a separate file and for three years after the employee’s hiring or one year after termination (whichever is first)

Business Losses:

Making sure employees are not held financially responsible for customer walkouts, register shortages, order mistakes and damaged equipment

Gratuity Practices / Banquet Contracts:

Assessment of tipping policy to make sure managers do not participate in a tip pool, that tips are properly reported, and that banquet and other contracts do not contain misleading references to “staff gratuities” or “service charges”