It is no secret that, in the restaurant industry, people work long hours. The problem is that certain restaurant owners – here in Montreal (Quebec) – don’t give any breaks, nor meal breaks to their employees, even if the employees’ shift is 10 to 12 hours long. AND the employees are prohibited from eating while working (which I understand because it’s not sanitary to eat while working with food).
How can that be, when we all know that the norm is to give two (2) fifteen (15) minute breaks and at least an unpaid thirty (30) minute meal break? We’re not in a country where slavery is legal, and giving breaks is good practice!
Well, here’s what Quebec’s labour laws say about it:
So, as per the labour laws, an employer is NOT required to give any breaks, of any sorts, whatsoever.
Ok, so what do Quebec’s Labour laws say about overtime?
But there’s a huge problem with this picture. Certain restaurant owners DO NOT pay overtime at all (which is illegal to not pay overtime). So, the employees, although they work 50, 60 hours, or more, they only get paid for the first 40 hours they’ve worked. AND, they are REQUIRED and/or EXPECTED to work those hours overtime! Otherwise the employee is eventually out the door because the job he/she has to do is not completed!
Now, let’s go back to the breaks and meal breaks:
So the employee has no breaks, no meal breaks (which if given would be an unpaid meal break – but since they don’t have a break, that thirty-minute has to be paid) and the employee is required to work overtime without being paid for it.
With that many overtime hours, a meal break would pay itself up in no time.
The thing is, if certain restaurant owners are more than willing to not give any breaks and/or meal breaks and goes to the point of unlawfully not pay for overtime, what are the probabilities that he/she also doesn’t pay that meal break (as required by law if the employee cannot leave his/her work station) and instead, on the employee’s paycheck, pass it off as if the employee has had a meal break?
Often times, those restaurant employees are young and don’t know their rights and their employer’s obligations. And some restaurant owners take advantage of that.
I have been told that not being paid for overtime is a very common practice. Not paying for it doesn’t make it right. The same way you wouldn’t jump off a bridge even if most of your neighbors did!
I understand that the economy is not at its best; nevertheless, it’s not a reason to let people exploit you! You have rights and when you work overtime, THEY HAVE TO PAY YOU!!!
Let’s see an example on how it turns your salary around, so to speak;
Imagine that you start a new job where they pay you $12/hour.
You work 40 hours and you get paid for those 40 hours.
Let’s do the math, shall we!?
$12 x 40 hours = $480
So far, that’s not complicated.
Now imagine that you work 50 hours per week, but only get paid for 40 hours.
We already established that you would get paid $480 for 40 hours.
So let’s take that amount and divide it by the actual time worked.
$480 ÷ 50 hours = $9.60
So in reality, you’re being paid $9.60/hour.
And what if you work 60 hours per week (which is not uncommon in a kitchen)?
$480 ÷ 60 hours = $8.00
Then you’re paid even less, per hour, than a person who earns tips as part of their job (ex: a waiter).
Those amounts are under the legal minimum wage for a person who works in a kitchen!
Here are the legal minimum wages:
Let’s now see how much you’d receive if you were paid for the 50 hours that you’ve worked.
As we’ve seen before, out of the 50 hours that you’ve worked, 40 hours were worked at your regular $12/hour rate (giving you $480/week).
And the remaining 10 hours is worked overtime. Remember, overtime is paid time and a half. Meaning, your overtime rate per hour is 1.5 times your normal rate of $12.
So, $12 x 1.5 = $18
Therefore, $18 is how much you have to get for every hour of overtime that you work.
And in this example, you worked 10 hours overtime.
$18 x 10 = $180
Now, the total amount for a 50 hour week is this;
$480 + ($18 x 10 hours overtime) = ???
$480 + ($180) = $660
And for a 60 hour week (so 20 hours overtime) it’s:
$480 + ($18 x 20 hours overtime) = ???
$480 + ($360) = $840
Ok, so now let’s take those amounts to see how much per hours that would be if you had a flat rate:
$660 ÷ 50 hours = $13.20 per hour
$840 ÷ 60 hours = $14.00 per hour
That’s a pretty big difference from the $9.60/hour for 50 hours, or the $8.00/hour for 60 hours.
If your employer is not paying you your overtime, you can file a complaint with the Commission des normes du travail. Just make sure to learn what options and processes are available to you, depending on your situation and the type of complaint you want to make.
It’s also important to learn what your rights and obligations are, as well as those of your employer. For that, you can consult the Labour standards in Québec* on the Commission des normes du travail’s site.
In conclusion, it’s better to refuse work conditions that are not proper and find another job, than being stuck to make a formal complaint to the Commission des normes du travail down the line because the process can be long and arduous.
*Commission des normes du travail – “Labour standards in Québec – May 2015” http://www.cnt.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/pdf/publications/c_0149a.pdf