Unpaid waiting-around time before shifts has restaurant employees fuming

Montreal restaurants such as L'Gros Luxe expect staff to show up on time for a shift but not to punch the clock until the manager gives them the green light. By the way, it's illegal.

L'Gros Luxe singled out as expecting employees to show up on time but not punch in until management says so

Antoine Febres-Gagné said he worked at a L'Gros Luxe location where he would wait an average of an hour before being allowed to punch in and start his shift. (Radio-Canada)

Even though it's illegal, some Montreal restaurants expect staff to show up on time for a shift but not to punch the clock until the manager gives them the green light.

Busboy Antoine Febres-Gagné, 19, said he was expected to arrive at work at the L'Gros Luxe in Old Longueuil at the start of his scheduled shift, but then wait until his manager told him to start working.

The time spent waiting at the restaurant was not paid.

"Most of the time, when I'd get to work, I have to wait an hour, an hour and a half … hoping that the owner or the manager would come see me to tell me that I could enter and punch in," Febres-Gagné said.

Febres-Gagné worked at the restaurant for a month last fall and was then fired for absenteeism.

The L'Gros Luxe location in Old Longueuil is where Febres-Gagné worked, but other employees confirmed what Febres-Gagné's experienced is a chain-wide policy. (Radio-Canada)

Expecting employees to arrive at work then wait before punching in violates article 57 of Quebec's Labour Standards Act, according to Johanne Tellier, the director of Quebec's workplace health and safety board, known by its French acronym, CNESST.

She said if employees are expected to be at their workplace "they are considered to be at work," even if the employer doesn't give them any tasks.

To prove unpaid waiting-around time was expected of him, Febres-Gagné recorded a conversation with the manager of the restaurant, Emmanuel Bélanger, who refused to pay him "because he wasn't working," he said.

Another former L'Gros Luxe employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear that speaking out would affect his current employment, said that unpaid waiting before a shift is a practice across the chain — one that causes a lot of frustration among staff.

Unaware of any illegality, says owner

L'Gros Luxe owner Alex Bastide said he never received a complaint about the practice and that he was unaware it's illegal.

"I didn't know it was illegal. We'll adjust our approach," Bastide said.

L'Gros Luxe owner Alex Bastide said he wasn't aware the chain was doing anything illegal and that he will change how employees are scheduled. (Radio-Canada)

He added that he would now manage employee schedules differently and confirmed he would reimburse Febres-Gagné more than $300.

L'Gros Luxe, however, isn't the only culprit, said longtime waiter Marc Charbonneau.

He said for almost four years, he worked at another unnamed restaurant where unpaid waiting time was expected of him. 

Translated from an article by Radio-Canada's Yvan Lamontagne