Waffle House

Waffle House Faces Scrutiny For Deducting Meals From Employee Paychecks

They definitely deserve better!

Waffle House may be investigated after making policy changes to deduct mandatory meal costs from employee paycheck—regardless of if they eat.

According to the petition filed by the Union of Southern Service Workers (USSW), Waffle House is taking close to $3 for each on-shift meal out of employees’ pay. Working with employees of the popular breakfast chain, USSW is asking federal officials to investigate the policy change. 

The union called the change “especially alarming” since most workers are paid a sub-minimum wage “as low as $2.90 per hour“; most of their money comes in the form of tips. Many workers don’t have the time or desire to eat from the menu during every shift, and the group says employees often end up working through their breaks.

“Waffle House is deducting their workers’ wages for meals that are ultimately being sold to customers at retail price,” the petition read. 

Legally, employers are allowed to deduct the cost of employee meals, but they must be provided “at cost” and not for profit to the company. Charging $3 would be below the Waffle House menu price but on the high end if the meal goes uneaten. The union asked the wage and hour division of the Labor Department to determine the “actual cost” of the meal and decide if the company was overcharging employees.

The changes prompting Georgia employees to go on a one-day strike on Mar. 25 with specific demands: better working conditions, pay raises, and an end to the “meal credit” policy, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. Cindy Smith, an employee at the franchise in Conyers, Georgia, alerted her manager, that she and two coworkers would be striking for the day. They walked out at 10 a.m. in the middle of their shift. 

“If Waffle House thinks they can keep getting away with docking our pay for meals we don’t eat, they clearly don’t understand the power we’ve built in our union,” Smith said. “We show up every day and work hard for as little as $2.90/hr before tips, so losing $3 every shift does real damage,” she said. 

“We’re fed up, and we’re going on strike to demand that Waffle House end this policy across the country, listen to us and make changes that will keep us safe on the job and help us provide for our families.”

The frustrated employee also mentioned workers pay full price for meals to go, another policy in the Waffle House manual. Workers are also charged an extra fee for “premium” meats like steaks or pork chops. 

Waffle House has 40,000 employees in close to 2,000 stores across the country. Nearly 13,000 workers are on board for the changes and have signed the petition. In addition to seeking a $25-an-hour minimum wage and security at all restaurants, Smith feels a more reasonable solution would be letting workers opt in or out of the meals rather than making them a default condition.