HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

Discrimination in Restaurants - does it influence where you dine?

I think we are all aware that, as a whole, the restaurant industry does not always follow government mandated employment practices. Breaks are rarely taken, illegal immigrants abound, sexual harassment lines are stretched to their limit. But if you knew that a particular restaurant discriminated against it's employees, as defined by law, on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or family caregivers, would you still patronize that establishment?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. If I absolutely knew that a particular restaurant discriminated, that would probably mean I had some level of personal connection to the place's employees.
    So, I would need to know what the employee thought-- frequent the place so s/he maintained a job? Make anonymous Health Dept/OSHA claims?
    I'm not a single-issue voter, neither am I a single-issue eater. There a a lot of variables at play in the real world, and sometimes discrimination isn't on the top of the list.

              1. It depends on a lot of things...what's the story? Has there been legal repercussions? Is it one off, as far as anybody can tell, or is it a long-standing issue?

                1. No.
                  However. Some of the best four star restaurants in new york city pay their cooks "per shift" which is based on an 8hr day, yet the norm is more like 12-14hrs. (My ex boyfriend was one of these cooks)
                  My point is there is some level of egregious behavior industry-wide, so where is the line in the sand....?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    Agreed this is a common practice, as is working through breaks, but these are practices known to the employee when they take on the position (usually) and apply to all the cooks. I suppose I'm referring to when the employer singles out an employee on grounds like race or whatever and treats the employer unfairly - usually by terminating them, on these grounds.

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      Cheating employees in terms of pay for time worked is NOT discrimination as the OP queries. That said I have helped employees in such situations file wage/hour claims with the CT Dept of Labor (pro bono, the underpaid can't afford lawyers to get what little wages they earn and haven't been paid).

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        The Fair Labor Standards Act requires the employer who is found to be violating wage laws to pay the legal fees of the employee who prevails in a claim. Plenty of lawyers take these cases on a contingent and/ or hourly fee that is only paid if the case is won. The employees who are being illegally cheated out of the pay required by law do not have to pay the attorney up front.

                        1. re: Ashforth

                          If they can find an attorney to take the case without any money up front. Not all will lay out expenses on a contingent basis. Copying and filing and process serving cost money. Don't be fooled when you see an attorney's ad that says no fee unless we win. Expenses aren't fees.

                    2. No. Doesn't matter how good the food is.

                        1. This may depend on how I "knew" that they were discriminating. Gossip? A tribunal where an employee is having their discrimination case heard? A successful prosecution by the enforcement authorities?

                          I'd like to assume that if discrimination is actually taking place, then the prosecution authorities are aware of it and are taking action. I may well leave my reservation with the place until after the case is decided. If, on the other hand, this is gossip then it's unlikely to particularly influence my dining decision.

                          I am a "retired member" of the trade union I joined when I started work at 16. It offends me when employers break laws that we've worked hard to see established. It offends me if that is discrimination against an employee. It offends me if that is a breach of health and safety legislation. It offends me if it is employment of illegal immigrants who have no right to work here. I'm not sure I'm more offended by one over another.

                          1. Family caregivers? What are you talking about?

                            Welcome to Chowhound.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Cathy

                              It may be that the OP lives in a part of the world where carers (e.g folk who care for children, infirm relatives, etc) may not be discriminated against in the same way as it may be illegal to discriminate on grounds of race, gender, etc. Doesnt apply where I live.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I live in California where current legislation does not current cover family caregivers - that is mothers or fathers who provide care for children as well other family members like grandparents and aunts and uncles - under laws which make discrimination punishable by law, although there is legislation currently being debated to do this.

                              2. re: Cathy

                                I think the OP is talking about a restaurant that might discriminate against/not hire, someone who is the primary caregiver of children or an infirm family member.

                              3. Can you back up your first sentence with factual, not opinionated, evidence.

                                13 Replies
                                1. re: treb

                                  I've no idea in which part of the world the OP lives. But I'd be surprised to learn that all employers in any industry in any country always comply with mandatory employment practices.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Harters........
                                    The OP is definitely in the USA.

                                    Her post has types of discrimination listed that are constitutionally protected as well as some protected by state constitutions or laws.

                                    Federal Protection acronym: RAN>>Race, Age, National Origin, also religion. Some states: gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, leave for family care (minimum of 50 employees), etc.

                                    The standards vary from jurisdiction to Jurisdiction with generally more rights/groups protected in Liberal/Demoract 'BLUE' states than Conservative/Republican 'RED' states.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      Leave for family care is federal not state, under FMLA-Family and Medical Leave Act. It is not optional no matter what state your business is in.

                                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                                        But...

                                        FMLA only applies if the business has more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

                                        If you work for a small company, you're SOL.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          I am not going to walk into a restaurant and ask if the management hires employees based on their asking for possible days off to attend to family members during their job interview.

                                          I will not be asking about the break times and if every employee does take one nor to see the payroll and E-verify records.

                                          I'm also not going to ask for statistics regarding the nationality, ages or race of every employee nor statistics regarding their preferred sexual preferences.

                                          IF there is an ongoing lawsuit that is publicized in the papers and news, I might consider avoiding a restaurant during that time, since there will likely be news cameras around. After the results of a trial, I will then make a decision about whether or not to patronize that restaurant; there have been far too many false allegations recently regarding notes left on credit card receipts, patrons accusing management of discrimination and other incidents that make me wary of any accusations.

                                          1. re: Cathy

                                            is there some reason you're aiming that at me?

                                            My response was part of a discussion about FMLA, not any of the things you're ranting about.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Sorry. Thought I was responding above.

                                              1. re: Cathy

                                                okay - sometimes it's to keep it in the right place in the thread, but I wasn't sure.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  I'm just frustrated with the premise of this post and hadn't read responses for a few days...then saw one back to me...it was early...excuses on my part.

                                                  Sorry again; I usually am more careful.

                                                  1. re: Cathy

                                                    You are right. This is a ridiculous thread. Unless the poster wants to state a specific and properly documented gripe or disagreement with a restaurant's discriminatory policy there is nothing to comment upon.

                                  2. re: treb

                                    Well ... Is my opinion of the restaurant industry after having worked in most of my life, shared by fellow workers with me as well. If there were facts out there about the poor employment practices of many restaurants, fine dining included, then it would probably be possible to initiate class action lawsuits. The sad fact is that many workers don't report unfair dismissals and poor working conditions.

                                    1. re: Wambalus

                                      because they can't -- see my mention above -- even if they file a lawsuit, they'll never work again because they're a troublemaker -- even if the suit is completely justified and documented.

                                      1. re: Wambalus

                                        If I, as a customer, personally have knowledge that the est is discriminating etc, I would not patronize. I do know that there are a lot of line cooks, food prepers etc are not only minorities but, most are very talented and good at what they do. In fact, the real heart beat of the est. Also, it's no picnic to work in the restaurant bus.

                                    2. I think that most of us are able to operate under enough ambiguity to justify never 'really' knowing.

                                      Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich payed out over $5 million in the tip skimming law suit without ever directly expressing guilt (other than agreeing to a sum to payout). Now does this mean that they are now the best place to eat in terms of pay practices to employees? Should they be boycotted for having done this to begin with? Does a diner boycott the places until the lawsuit is decided upon in case the claim is correct (the suit was originally filed in 2010 but not finished until 2013)? What if a payout is made but guilt never really determined? What do any of us "know' now about their legal compliance now? (personally I "boycott" their restaurants as I live near none of them, and they're largely out of my price range)

                                      I think that unfortunately the nature of the restaurant industry is that we all "know" that "most/all" restaurants break some laws. However we also will never truly "know" exactly which laws which restaurants are actually breaking. Therefore we're rarely truly forced to make that decision, because we rarely actually know.

                                      1. Yes. I'm an eater, not a social worker.

                                        1. Not only wouldn't I give them my dollars, but I would probably represent the discriminated against employees pro bono to recover what was owed them.

                                          1. To all those who responded no, is it the fact that you don't know about it that makes it a "No" answer?

                                            Because this statement is fairly broad; "Breaks are rarely taken, illegal immigrants abound, sexual harassment lines are stretched to their limit." You are hard pressed to find many restaurants that do not violate that statement.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                              Well, exactly. I was saying that these are the common practices of the industry. The question I was trying to ask was when a restaurant goes beyond these questionable, but accepted practices into discriminatory behavior would that affect your decision to patronize that business.

                                              1. re: Wambalus

                                                Your question doesnt make sense because it opens with a blanket statement that isnt related to the legal definition of discrimination which is what the question you asked is about. Ifyou want to know if people would go to a place that hires illegals then ask, if you want to know about discrimination then ask...but dont mix the two.

                                                1. Nope. We didn't go to Cracker Barrel for the few years they were firing/not hiring gay and lesbian workers, however much I missed the Cousin Hershel's Favorite breakfast platter. And honestly, when I learn of a restaurant that treats its employees like galley slaves I'll avoid it, not simply because I'm against mistreating people but because I don't like the atmosphere in such places. If the boss is a butthole they'll likely take it out on me.

                                                  1. There was a fairly new BBQ place in the area that got hit with some serious criminal sexual harassment charges which was their downfall.
                                                    So, I guess there were more than a few people who avoided the place after that.
                                                    The charges never came to anything but I stopped eating there too even though I was not sure if they were guilty.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Motosport

                                                      There was a local restaurant whose owners were charged with importing young girls from India -- some of whom died in "accidents" -- for sex slaves and/or indentured servants. The restaurant closed.

                                                      I have lots of choices in restaurants -- I don't need to support ones that are exploiting their employees.

                                                    2. It depends… Ideally I would say 'yes', but due to the vagaries of practice in OP I can't. However, if somebody I know has been mistreated or witnessed it first hand I boycott. Additionally, if I've heard many negative stories about the same place from different, unrelated sources I boycott.I used to work service, and I have good friends who still do. I defer to their experiences.

                                                      1. "Breaks are rarely taken, illegal immigrants abound, sexual harassment lines are stretched to their limit."

                                                        Hell, you could be talking about the medical field. Are you going to refuse to go to a particular hospital for the same reasons? What if you live in an area like I do, where there is only one other hospital (which most likely has the same practices) that is less than an hour away?

                                                        1. Please give a specific example of the infraction, and how you know with certainty that it occurring. I've heard a zillion rumors about different places, most of them unsubstantiated.