How to handle a shady boss……..without going to jail

One of the ugly sides of working in Restaurant industry is having to deal with shady ass restaurant owners who, to put it politely, don’t have the best interests of their staff at the top of their list of priorities. If you’ve been around long enough to earn the title of Chef, you’ve been screwed over at least once or twice by these guys and every city has a few of them. These assholes are the kind of people who rely on your fear and ignorance to stay in power. I’m here to change that and be the first to tell you that unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you can find another gig. Also, you have rights, stand up for yourself or you have no one else to blame for the situation.  

To all of you owners struggling, I feel for you and if you’re upfront with your staff, chances are they will be a lot cooler with the situation if you tell them prior to their check bouncing. This isn’t directed at you. This industry is not kind and I know that a lot of you guys make sure that your staff gets paid before you see a dime and if you’re loyal to your crew, they will cover you.

To all of you little bitches too lazy to work a full day and want to sit on your ass, play the victim and game the system, fuck you. This industry is not for the weak and if you can’t take the heat stay out of my Kitchen. This is a team sport, it’s not a video game nor is it anything like that bullshit you see on TV.

For the rest of you shady sons of bitches, I have no sympathy for you and the only reason I’m not naming names right now is that you don’t deserve the attention. The times they are a changing and you idiots are about to get hit with a real rude awakening. With the labor shortage only getting worse you have two choices, either pay your staff a living wage and treat them with basic respect or you’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel to find a warm body to stand in the Kitchen and scratch their ass while they microwave dinner for the two customers you’ll be lucky to have on a Friday night.

So let’s say you have to deal with one of these guys. Your check bounces or your missing hours or whatever. I’m going to go out a limb in the name of fairness and say that most of the time, this is the result of a simple error and can be solved easily. But what if they’re total dicks? What if they won’t pay you at all or are holding your money for some bullshit reason? How do you handle this and what is the best course of action to get a resolution?

Trust me when I say that I’ve acted out of anger a few times and handled things a bit differently than I prefer to now. It’s because of the stupid shit I’ve done that I’ve learned and hope to share so that you don’t have to deal with the same drama. On that note, I really don’t regret most of the horrible thing’s that I’ve done in the Kitchen, the food was never impacted, no one got hurt and while it may have been immature, I made my point.  

What are your goals with this?

If you’re one of those petty ass revenge seeking motherfuckers, stop reading now, karma is a bitch with a big old strap one.

If you’re trying to hurt a business, even if they’re total assholes, stop reading now. I’ve been that guy, don’t be that guy, you look like an ass and there are far more effective means to solve the problem.

If your goal is to get what’s owed, nothing more, nothing less, than please by all means continue. I don’t expect much from people but I make it very clear to anyone I do business with, pay what you owe me on time and treat me with respect and everything will be cool. I honestly don’t think that this is too much to ask for, do you?

Always keep ya cool

My natural response to any kind of stress is to find the source of the stress and smash it until I feel better and the source is unable to ever stress me out again. This isn’t the best way to handle things and it only took me about thirty years to learn this. The point is, no matter what happens, keep your cool.

I know, trust me, I know how fucking infuriating this shit can be but as long as you stay cool, you’re in control. The second you lose your shit, no matter how justified it is, is when you fucked yourself way harder than they ever could. As soon as things start to get tense or voices start to raise, find a way to walk away. Forget how you feel or how you look in the moment, if shit starts to hit, keep your cool and walk away. You’ll see why below.

No matter what you think, you’re always on the record.

Shut up, seriously, shut the fuck up right now. Don’t tell me what’s going on in your head and sure as fuck don’t tell anyone with any remote connection to the business. You might think that these are your boys and that you’re tight but let me tell you something, 99% of them with sell your ass out so fast your head will spin. Owners are notorious for turning crew against each other when they sense any kind of storm and you would be surprised what someone will do for a fifty cent raise.

As soon as shit starts to go south you need to shut up and watch. The less you say the better. True, rumors will spread but whatever.

Create a paper trail

This idiot made it too easy

Remember what I said about walking away? Here’s why, not only to avoid doing or saying anything stupid, you can also start to establish a paper trail. If at all possible, avoid talking about the situation and if you do have to communicate with the managers or the owners, do it via email or text. Why? Well simple. If you have this, there’s no misunderstanding and no he said she said bullshit. They can’t come back and say “I never said….” if you have a text with a time and date showing that they did. A screenshot can often be the very things that save your ass.

Know your rights

The reason these assholes bother pulling this shit is that most of us have let them get away with it and very few have taken the time stand up for themselves. If you’re reading this, it sure as shit isn’t on a stone tablet so after you read this and donate to my documentary, take two seconds and type in “Labor laws in (your state)” and find out the facts.

Yes, I know you have a friend whose brother went to Law school for like 3 semesters but he’s an idiot and so are you if you take his advice. Labor laws are not exactly friendly towards the laborer and every state is different so your rights are going to be different depending on where you live. Don’t guess, take the time to do your homework so that if you have to confront the owners, you don’t look like a total moron. Often times just knowing your rights is enough to get them to straighten up.

Contact the local labor board

While some of these people can be total dicks, if you’re cool with them, keep your calm and don’t scream at them, you have a good chance that they will work with you, especially if you know your rights and have a valid claim.  The problem with this is that these guys are busy as shit most of the time and as a result, it might take weeks or even months to go through the process and get paid. If you’re like 90% of the industry, you’re living paycheck to paycheck and this can seriously fuck things up for up and the owner’s know this. Again, this is why you need to have your shit together before making a claim. Have dates and times and every bit of information ready to go if you end up having to file a claim. Don’t guess, don’t waste their time, have facts ready to go and don’t get self-righteous. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass and this is why a lot of people give up and don’t bother and the owners know this and it’s why they can get away with it, because we’re too lazy to stand up for ourselves and do the paperwork.  

But what about their lawyers?

Fuck their punk ass lawyers! Yes, I’ve had a few idiots threaten to sue me over this site and refusing to turn over my recipes and every time I’ve called their bluff. All they’re trying to do is scare you and this used to work in the days before you could pull out your phone and look up the local labor laws instantly. Yes, if things get stupid and you end up having to go to court, this can be a problem and you might have to find one yourself. This might sound daunting but most places do have some kind of system to cover people in situations like this. As imperfect as these can be, they are tools that you can make work to your advantage and if you end up in court, you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Seek Mediation

One of the good things that came out of my recent little adventure on craigslist is that the courts are way backed up due to people being unable to solve their issues like adults and as a result, the judges are pushing for mediation. I dig this idea and there are a lot of benefits this since the parties involved get to sort their shit out with a trained mediator and the agreement is still court enforced. It also keeps the mudslinging out of public record and let’s face it, what goes on in most restaurants needs to stay in the restaurant. While not all places have this program, it’s well worth looking into and will often provide a quicker and much more pleasant outcome for both parties.  

What you shouldn’t do (that I may or may not have done)

  • Walk down the line with an open box of salt destroying the Mise for the night
  • Pull the vent system
  • Post shitty yelp reviews
  • Post shitty reviews on other social media sites. It makes you look like a petty dick and makes them look like the victim of a spiteful employee with a grudge.
  • Use your remote access to change the wording on the POS
  • Hack their Facebook and kick off the managers
  • Get drunk and fired the night before New Year’s Eve and canceling the delivery for the next morning.

If you gotta go…

Restaurants are like relationships and I’ve had a lot more flings and one night stands than I have had long-term situations. That being said, if you have to part ways with a place, keep your cool and your dignity. Don’t ever get into a screaming match with them, don’t play the game. If you have to walk-out mid shift, don’t make a scene or be a bitch about it, get your knives and let whoever’s in charge that you’re done and just go but understand that no matter what, you will be viewed as the villain. At the same time, I’ve been faced with the choice of either walking out or catching a charge and I’m not trying to write this from a cell, no matter how much street cred it might earn me.

The last check….

This is painfully similar to getting the last of your stuff from your ex’s after a bad breakup and just as awkward. You might be tempted to talk shit to your former staff but take the high ground and get what you came for. There’s no need to rehash the shit, what’s done is done. If things were really bad and you trust them enough to think it won’t get “lost in the mail”, this might be the easiest option. If they act like dicks about it, see above.

Not all owners are shady.

With as much bullshit and I’ve had to deal with, I’ve also been lucky enough to work for some straight up good people who bent over backward to cover their staff. Most of the time these are smaller places and the pay isn’t the best in the world but it’s worth it to know you’re not going to get screwed over. As the labor pool continues to dry up, these are the people who will continue to have the best people and whose business will continue to thrive. To those of you doing it the right way, you have my appreciation and respect and I hope you understand this isn’t directed at you. You’ve been around, you’ve heard the horror stories, you know the people I’m talking about.

In Closing

Dealing with this kind of thing is never fun and rarely ever easy. Your situation is your situation and some battles are honestly not worth fighting. That being said, if you have to stand your ground, make sure you keep your cool and have your shit together. Remember, the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

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