Does this restaurant treat it workers well? There’s now an app for that

Smartphone users have more apps to assist in many common everyday tasks. Want to find a restaurant that serves sustainably harvested seafood or has LEED certification, there is an app.

A new app focuses of the welfare of restaurant workers. Its creators provide information to consumers about employment practices at more than 150 restaurants, including national chains in 10 major cities including New York City. The creator of the app is the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group for food service workers.

Star system ranks restaurants on employee welfare

The app ranks restaurants with a star system. It looks at whether a restaurant pays more than minimum wage, offers paid sick leave and promote employees internally. In Washington D.C., for example several of the restaurants that received gold stars are independently owned. Many of the larger chains did not do as well and received negative ratings.

ROC United designed the factors to measure how committed a restaurant is to treating its workers fairly.

The app is drawing attention to some of the difficulties encountered by those who work in food service. For instance, many workers report coming to work while they are ill, because they do not have paid sick leave.

Common employment law violations

Wage and hour claims may also come up, in the context of overtime and breaks. If employees work through their breaks or complete work off the clock before they punch in these could be violations of labor laws.

Tip credits can be another area of concern. Tip totals help employers reach minimum wage requirements and if they are overstated may mean workers are paid less than minimum wage.

Focus on fairness

The issue of unfair treatment of workers in food service has recently gained more attention. One of the reasons for the growing interest was a protest and strike by New York fast-food workers who were seeking higher wages and better benefits.

The creators of the app do not want people to use the app to boycott restaurants, but to inform their decisions. A disclaimer specifically states that "the purpose of the guide is not to tell you where to eat and where not to eat." One positive outcome from the app might be more discussion and food service employers reviewing their current practices to make sure they comply with applicable labor laws.

When you have concerns that your pay might not fully reflect all your work, it is important to contact an employment attorney. Wage-and-hour violations can be difficult to uncover. Sometimes practices such as asking employees to work through breaks may not seem like a big deal, however, unpaid wages affect all employees. It also amounts to a windfall profit for an employer. When wage theft occurs, there are remedies and an attorney can assist you through the process.