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Restaurant Owner’s Manual

Forward | Introduction | Table of Contents

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Manual Cover


Nathan Shinagawa, County Legislator (D-4), Ithaca
    June 2011

Restaurants have long embodied the entrepreneurial spirit of small business in America. Immigrant families from Italy to Korea have built their dreams from the rich culinary history of their cultures. In Ithaca especially, thousands of individuals and families have created a livelihood from the tastes and smells of their restaurants. This guide was developed to help restaurant owners run their restaurants in compliance with the laws that protect the rights of workers.

Over the past decade, we have seen many restaurants throughout Tompkins County who have faced violations and penalties for breaking labor and occupational safety and health laws. Most were unaware of these laws. Rules about tips, over-time, and safety equipment were sometimes unknown. This guide seeks to educate people of these laws so that we can make sure restaurant owners, their workers, and their patrons are treated fairly, justly, and within the law.

Unfortunately, too, we have faced some restaurants that have neglected or ignored the law. This guide can also be a reference point for workers and customers to make sure that they can help restaurants be account-able to the community they serve. The prevalence of wage theft in the restaurant industry is a growing national and local epidemic that can only be solved through knowledge, accountability, and the enforcement of law.

The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, Tompkins County Legislature, the NYS Department of Labor and the County Department of Health worked closely with the Tompkins County Workers Center to make this guide possible. We are lucky to live in a community that cooperates on important projects such as this. I thank them for their efforts.


The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has prepared this booklet for restaurant owners in Tompkins County, New York.

Thanks to our former Cornell University work study student, Jessica Yoon, whose research led us to our model, the New York City Restaurant Manual, prepared and distributed through Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, The City of New York.

Sincere thanks to the Cortland Workers’ Rights Board’s permission to use parts of their Workers’ Rights Handbook. Materials from The New York City Restaurant Owner Manual ©2006 are used with permission of the City of New York.

Thank you to Jean Lindholm of the NYS Department of Labor and Laurie Johnston of the Miller Mayer Law Firm, Ithaca, NY for reviewing our booklet and adding valuable corrections to the text.

Thanks also to the Tompkins County Legislature for seeing the importance of this work. Additional thanks go to Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa who worked proactively with the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce to obtain a fiscal sponsor for the entire printing of the manual, Audrey Edelman Real Estate.

We would also like to thank the Tompkins County Health Department for their willingness to distribute this publication to restaurant owners and managers.

This booklet is distributed with the understanding that neither the Tompkins County Workers’ Center nor the authors of the booklet are rendering legal advice on the subjects discussed here. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional should be obtained.

All regulations are current as of April, 2011.

    Download the Manual (PDF, 512KB)



    Laws Regarding Tips
    Shifts and Breaks
    Record Keeping Requirements
    Workers’ Compensation
    Unemployment Insurance
    Privacy Issues
    Employment Discrimination
    Sexual Harassment
    Other Forms of Harassment
    Disability and Accommodation
    Health and Safety
    Right to Unionize
    Family and Medical Leave
    Recommended Best Practices
    Appendix A: Notice of Pay Rates and Pay Day form
    Appendix B: Wage Theft Prevention Act

    Download the Manual (PDF, 512KB)