Restaurants: Legal Pitfalls Lurk Around Every Corner
Updated: Jan 26, 2019
It's generally accepted that restaurants have pretty low profit margins. Plus, there are so many issues that have the potential to affect a restaurant's bottom line including government shutdowns, food safety concerns, injuries, and a host of other things that keep restaurant owners up at night.
There's not a lot of money left over for "extras" like trainings and lawyers poking around trying to find potential risks. But, restaurant owners - hear me out - you should dedicate resources to mitigating these potential legal risks, because there's a lot out there and it could end up costing you more down the road.
Examples, with some questions to ask yourself:
A DC restaurant was fined $7000 for asking a transgender woman for ID before letting her use bathroom. It appears that the manager may not have been aware of the D.C. Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression in housing, employment, public accommodations and educational institutions. And even if the manager was aware of the Act, they may not have even realized that what they were doing was improper. Could training have prevented this?
Mike Isabella's restaurant group filed for bankruptcy and closed down following very public #MeToo allegations and a sexual harassment lawsuit, among other things. The lawsuit alleged classic hostile work environment, harassment, and retaliation claims, witnessed by many people that worked for the restaurant group. Why didn't more people speak up? Could a robust Ethics #Hotline have helped?
In 2018, DC enacted the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 which, among other things, requires restaurants (and other businesses that employ tipped workers) annually attend training on the requirements of DC's wage-theft law, have a sexual harassment policy, as well as report on the number of sexual harassment complaints they receive. What are the requirements for compliance?
These are just a few of the many potential legal pitfalls that a restaurant owner has to contend with. Simply put, it just makes good business sense to be proactive about making sure you're doing everything you can to be in compliance.