The work didn't seem to be overwhelming, either. We poured water, cut and served bread, collected dirty plates and set up silverware. The other busboy helped load the dishwasher and carry crates of cutlery back and forth from the bus station to the kitchen. Everything seemed to be going well, until after my first week. On payday, the boss's secretary handed me an envelope along with everyone else. I received a total of $108 in tip money for the four days that I had worked. She told me that I would have to speak with the manager about my salary since he handled everyone's pay.
I shrugged it off, thinking that maybe it was just taking me longer to get a gist of things, so I merely cast it aside and kept working, under the impression that I would be added to the payroll next week. I would bring it up to the boss at the end of the day. It wasn't until that came to my attention that I had begun to notice certain discrepancies around the restaurant. My friend and I started comparing the restaurant to the Red Keep in Game of Thrones because of how dictatorial everything seemed to be.
The boss showed up about once a week and had taken to asking my friend to bring him coffee or tea in a very specific manner. He would knock on his office door upstairs, and wait for his signal. We were like his handmaids, catering to all his whims. When the boss wasn't in, he had his assistant check up on everyone for him. She was in charge of taking orders for delivery, amongst other menial tasks such as taking out the trash. All she ever did was work for a little bit, and then for the rest of the day, relax and eat at her table downstairs in the kitchen.
If his assistant was a Game of Thrones character, she'd be Varys the Spider as she'd spy on everyone and report their wrongdoings back to the boss. Sometimes, when I looked in the mirror across the restaurant, I could see her snake-like eyes following my movements back and forth. She would quietly watch everyone from her spot in the back next to the bar. She may have looked like a little old lady, but she crept around like a spider, always popping up when least expected.
The hostess reminded us of Cersei Lannister. She strutted around the place acting like she owned it, and when she wasn't standing outside trying to look hot, she was flirting with the servers while giving them orders on which customers to attend to. Her callous attitude and cold demeanor only made me like her less. She did even less work than Varys did, and got paid more than the servers, despite the fact that she only worked two days a week.
One of the servers would secretly pour alcohol into his plastic drink cup when no one was looking. He was sly as a fox, like Littlefinger, occasionally "sampling" the drinks before serving them. When he wasn't doing that, he was secretly plotting with Varys at the side of the bar.
A new busboy had joined our crew. He was a small, young man who didn't speak much English and was trying to earn enough money for community college. He had other busboy translate for him. When one wasn't there, the other did the work of two men. He had to manually carry dishes to the kitchen when the dishwasher was broken, and at the end of the day, still got paid the salary of one man's work. It wasn't like he knew that he was being taken advantage of, he barely knew what they were saying about him. My friend overheard the manager talking about how they might replace him, due to his lack of language skills. Additionally, I did notice that he had gotten added to the payroll and was receiving envelopes along with everyone else a few days later.
When my friend was working, he told me a story of an argument that had occurred earlier that day. The boss, aka Mad King Aerys, had gotten into a fight with the manager, aka Robert Baratheon. Mad King Aerys didn't know how to run a restaurant correctly, and had yelled at Robert's suggestion that they spend a mere $6 on a few bags of ice, since the machine wasn't working. Mad King Aerys said that Robert was to do as he was told because he was in charge, and put the water pitchers into the freezer so they would get colder. Robert then proceeded to tell my friend that its a pity how he's such a bad boss and businessman.
If the boss was too cheap to spend a few bucks on ice, then he certainly was paying me less than everyone else on purpose. I noticed that I was getting the least tips out of all the busboys, and it was because I was a girl. My friend was getting more tips than the busboy because he was Greek, even though the busboy did more work. I was doing the same work and the same amount as everyone else, yet, when I cashed out the next day, I realized that I had been given a mere $2 in tips for the entire Mother's Day Sunday. $2! That wasn't even enough for the subway!
It was getting ridiculous, and I finally got a chance to ask Robert about it the next day, since the boss had been doing a good job of hiding and wasn't there every time I tried to ask him about my salary. "What do you mean you're not getting your money? I thought his secretary was taking care of that, making sure you were on the payroll." It didn't have anything to do with the manager. His secretary had lied to me. "All I'm getting is tips, and the secretary told me to talk to you about it. I'm not getting the money everyone else is getting." Robert handed me my money and said, "I don't know. You'll have to ask the boss about it, but I'll ask him what the deal is."
It wasn't Robert's fault. He was just in charge of handing out the money. The next time I came into work, I got Mad King Aerys' number from Robert and decided to give him a call. I abruptly noticed that my name wasn't on next week's schedule, and I hadn't been told anything about that at all. I called a few times, to no avail. When I got home later, I decided to leave his secretary a message. I stated that if I didn't get the money that the boss owed me, I would report him for paying off the books and hiring illegal immigrants while paying them below minimum wage. I would get my justice, even if it took to doing paperwork. I wasn't going to let a corrupt boss scheme me of my wages.
Furious and confused, I asked my friend about the schedule, and he told me that Robert Baratheon had told him to tell me that I was no longer needed at the restaurant. Robert said that the boss wasn't satisfied with my performance. Now he couldn't even fire me himself? What a coward! Coincidentally, this happened right after I started asking questions.
When I had first started working there, I had taken note of the reviews on Yelp, which is one of the first things I notice about a business. The reviews reflect on how the place operates, and is an important part of a restaurant's reputation. Three different accounts all with the same name had posted positive reviews of the place, which only made me suspect that the boss was behind it all and had done it himself to boost popularity. I decided to leave a negative review exposing the boss and the management for their nefarious behavior and demand my money until I received exactly what I had worked for.
I made an appointment with Mad King Aerys the next day, showing up at the restaurant after school as usual. I noticed Robert had been M.I.A., which only led me to believe that he was going to be let go next. When I arrived at his office, the boss told me how Robert - not him - had been telling him that my work wasn't good enough. Mad King Aerys then claimed that he had begged the manager to let me keep working, and from the start, I was only in training and only supposed to receive tips for my work. Frustrated to tears at this point, I pointed out that the non-English-speaking busboy had been hired after a two-day trial and added to the payroll. Mad King Aerys said that the busboy had come from another restaurant. I demanded my money and said that if he didn't pay up, I was reporting him for tax fraud.
It wasn't until a few months later that I received a message from a fellow Yelper. It turns out his corruption extended beyond his restaurant business. I showed my friend the link, and he recalled the realty sign on the back of his desk and thought that his last name was something else. By changing his alias, he thought that he could get away with doing illicit activities.
I'm glad I did what I did because it is unfair for anyone to take advantage of a high school senior who is just trying to make some extra money to afford a dress for prom! I left with my money, my dignity and a life lesson from this job mishap.
Here are a few things that you can do if you are ever in a similar situation with a slimy boss:
I never spoke directly with the boss about my pay; instead, I listened to my friend. If I had initially asked him, I certainly would not have kept the job if I had known that I was only being paid in tips. I blame my self for being ignorant. Always make sure you know what your salary is, and when you're supposed to get paid.
2. Don't be afraid to STAND UP for yourself.
Does something seem off in your work environment? Do you think that you are receiving unfair treatment? Say something about it. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate any job applicant or employee because of their race, color, religion, age, sex or disability.
3. Know your RIGHTS.
If you know that a business is knowingly paying their employees off the books, it can create an unfair economic advantage and impose higher costs on responsible employers. Beware of Employer UI Fraud, which includes everything from paying off the books to intentionally classifying workers as independent contractors. Call (1-866)-435-1499, a 24-hour toll free hotline, to report Employer UI Fraud.