Bobbi Best owns Blondies’ Bistro in Grants Pass, Oregon. In December 2015, a man named Martin Robinson applied for a cook’s position. In the restaurant industry, it is common for job seekers to exhibit cooking prowess in a “working interview.” As Best had routinely done with previous job seekers, she asked Robinson to sign a waiver in which he consented to an unpaid working interview.
Signed Waivers of Acceptance Don’t Supersede Labor Regulations
Evidently, Best did not understand that Oregon labor laws require payment of at least minimum wage for time spent in working interviews. At minimum wage, the working interview would have earned Robinson about $30. The following day, Robinson worked a standard shift but then turned down the job in a text message to Best. Best paid him approximately $60 for the regular shift.
Ignoring It Won’t Make It Go Away
Robinson took Best to court where she was ordered to pay a fine for the violation. Best didn’t pay the initial fine which compounded to $4,400 in the early spring of 2016. As of October 31, 2016, she had paid over $13,000 in legal fees but still owed over $21,000 to Robinson and his lawyer.
There are several lessons to be learned from this story:
1. Employers need to keep accurate, comprehensive records to guard themselves in case of a labor dispute. Accurately track employee hours for working interviews, training, and regular shifts and customize for state and industry-specific laws.
2. Be aware that an employee may exploit even a small infraction. Courts almost always favor the worker, even if the employer acts rapidly to make amends.
3. Gain a thorough understanding of state and federal labor regulations, comply with them, and keep up with changes.
4. In the unfortunate event that you are fined, pay immediately before late penalties accrue.
Based on an October 31, 2016 story written by Jeff Duewel for the Grants Pass Daily Courier, republished by the Medford, Oregon-based Mail Tribune. Jeff Duewel, “Working interview turns into nightmare for Grants Pass Bistro,” Mail Tribune, October 31, 2016, http://www.mailtribune.com/news/20161031/working-interview-turns-into-nightmare-for-grants-pass-bistro, accessed February 28, 2017
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