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Behind The Kitchen Door: The Promise And Denial Of Boston’s Growing Restaurant Industry

Behind the Kitchen Door: The Promise and Denial of Boston’s Growing Restaurant Industry

Behind the Kitchen Door: The Promise and Denial of Boston’s Growing Restaurant Industry draws on 500 worker surveys, 20 structured interviews with restaurant workers, and 20 structured interviews with employers in Greater Boston, along with other industry and government data, to offer the most comprehensive analysis to date of working conditions in the Boston Area restaurant industry. This research demonstrates that the majority of Boston Area restaurant industry jobs are low-road jobs, defined by low wages, few benefits, and dangerous and often unlawful workplace conditions.

However, the report reveals that there are a minority of restaurants that succeed by investing in their workforce, offering benefits, opportunities for advancement, and livable wages. The report captures a range of problems with restaurant working conditions related to the availability of wages and benefits, workplace violations, and job-specific training opportunities. In particular, Boston-area workers who depend on tips for their wages are more likely to experience sexual harassment and wage theft, including the misappropriation of tips and service charges, overtime, and off-the-clock violations.

Key findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of Boston’s tipped workers report they have been sexually harassed by customers, over twice as many as other workers in our survey. Tipped workers were also more likely to experience overtime violations and work off the clock without pay than restaurant workers overall.
  • Thirty-six percent of restaurant workers reported earning wages below the lower-living-standard wage – the wage required for a full-time, full-year worker to reach a lower living standard for a family of three. A majority do not have access to paid sick days and, as a result, have prepared or served food while sick. Twenty-two percent of restaurant workers do not have any form of health insurance coverage.
  • Nearly half of workers that worked over 40 hours a week in the past 12 months reported being paid less than the legally mandated overtime rate, in violation of state and federal laws. Thirty-eight percent of restaurant workers worked off the clock without pay in the last 12 months, and nearly six in ten workers say they worked 8 hours without a paid break in the last 12 months.
  • According to this report’s findings, most restaurant workers do not receive regular raises, did not move up in position from their last restaurant job to their current job, and do not receive the on-going training they need to advance in position in the restaurant industry.
  • Forty-one percent of restaurant workers reported that it gets unsafely hot in the kitchen, twenty-eight said there are fire hazards in their restaurant, and over a third reported their kitchen does not have mats on the floor to prevent slipping. As a result, cuts, burns, falls, and chronic pain are widespread amongst Boston’s restaurant industry workforce.
  • Workers of color disproportionately occupy lower-level positions and work in lower-level segments on the industry, while white workers disproportionately occupy higher-paying ‘Front-of-the-House’ fine dining positions, the only livable wage jobs in the industry.

Read the full report.