Fast Food Employee Rights


The fast food industry has boomed in the last 50 years. Fast food restaurants have become household names. Behind every fast food restaurant is the work force that delivers the food to the people. Many fast food employees are treated as bottom-of-the-barrel laborers. It is important to know your rights as an employee of one of these restaurants.


  • Fast food giants like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Taco Bell have spread widely to most American towns and cities. Fast food expansion began as a way for travelers to get a familiar meal no matter where they were going.

    Workers' rights, at least nationwide in the United States, began in with the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. These laws gave workers universal rights in working for American companies.


  • Over 7 million people are employed in the restaurant business in the United States (over 2 percent). Knowing your rights can keep corrupt businesses and shady business practices from taking advantage of you.

National Labor Relations Act

  • The National Labor Relations Act, which pertains to the ability of workers to improve their working conditions, provides workers with the following rights:

    "To self-organization.
    To form, join, or assist labor organizations.
    To bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing.
    To engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union, which are usually group activities (two or more employees acting together) attempting to improve working conditions, such as wages and benefits.
    To refrain from any of these activities. (However a union and employer may, in a State where such agreements are permitted, enter into a lawful union-security clause)."

    Unfortunately, most of these rights do not apply to fast food workers. Because most fast food jobs require none to few working skills, striking or bargaining for better conditions can end up getting you fired as they can just hire new employees from a large pool of applicants.

Fair Labor Standards Act

  • The regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act might be more relevant for fast food employees. Any company whose gross sales are more than half a million dollars a year must abide by these regulations. You should find a poster in the break room with this information on it:

    The FLSA requires your employer to pay you at least minimum wage and to pay you for overtime if you work more than 40 hours per week. Positions that make tips only get half of minimum wage, but if they work overtime should get one and a half times minimum wage, not actual wage.

    The FLSA requires that you not be discriminated against for race or sex.

    If you have to buy your own uniform, make sure the cost of the uniform doesn't cut your pay below minimum wage or cut into overtime compensation.


  • Knowing your rights can help you create better working conditions for yourself and your coworkers.


  • Some companies have individual policies regarding their workers. Though these may not be "rights" per se, consult a higher-level manager if you feel your supervisor is abusing company policy and you were not able to work it out with the supervisor.

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