Pilot study published by the Center on Policy Initiatives and San Diego State University uncovers wage theft, discrimination, and break violations among restaurants in San Diego County.

“Overwhelming numbers of restaurant workers reported they had been cheated out of money they were owed in wages and tips, as well as their break time.”

Professor Jill Esbenshade, quoted above, is the principle investigator of recently published study Shorted: Wage Theft, Time Theft and Discrimination in San Diego County Restaurant Jobs, which includes results from a survey of 337 employees working in more than 160 distinct dining establishments in San Diego County, as well as 30 in-depth interviews and observational data collected at 40 top local restaurants.

The findings reveal disturbing numbers of labor laws violations and other exploitive workplace practices at restaurants of all kinds, from fast food to fine dining:

  • More than 75% of employees surveyed reported that their employers had illegally shorted them on wages or tips during the past year.
  • 25% of respondents said that wage theft is a regular part of their jobs.
  • 84% reported violations of rights to meal breaks and rest breaks, and 23% said restaurant managers made them falsely record unpaid meal breaks although having worked through the break.
  • Wage theft was found to most often target women, Latinos, and back-of-house staff.

This study’s findings replicate what has been reported in other studies conducted throughout the country; the violation of employee rights is far too commonplace in the restaurant industry and warrant further exploration as well as the development of policy solutions.

Read full study here.