“You have to give me a lunch break, it’s the law!”
I’ve heard this from a million people. I’ve even said it. Someone said it to me, so like any life-noob, I assumed it was truth. So before you start going off on your manager about lunch break laws, let me give you the skinny on what’s real and what ain’t.
Know your lunch break laws
A designated meal break is not required by federal law. Only about half the states have a meal break requirement. I live in the great state of Virginia and we are not one of those states.
The problem is one of entitlement. You believe that since you have to eat to survive, that you have the right to demand a food break from your employer.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Your employer doesn’t give a flying fuck about you or what you want. They don’t care about lunch break laws, they care about results and productivity.
The truth about you as an employee
You are a number. A set of hands. A warm body. If it would be cheaper to replace you with a robot then they would. If it would be more cost effective to train a monkey to do your job, then you would be out on your ass.
So get over yourself and check your entitlement at the door. You’re getting paid to work. Not eat. If you don’t like it, then leave. It’s as simple as that.
Related: I quit my job
There are plenty of jobs out there that will treat you like a decent human being. Insisting on working for some douche bag company that won’t let you eat on their clock is YOUR fault and YOUR problem.
The single best example of this is food service. You know what that means?
It’s story time!
The year was 2007. I was fresh out of culinary school. I thought I was hot shit. I landed my dream gig. Only a half hour from my home, there was a chef who had recently opened a restaurant and he was the real deal. He would eventually go on to be a 2013 semi-finalist for the Jame Beard Award – Mid-Atlantic Region. Last I saw him was about a year ago. On TV. As a contestant on Beat Bobby Flay.
Also. The guy is (or at least he was when I knew him) a colossal asshole. And that’s fine. He’s a chef. They’re supposed to be assholes. The word “chef” means “angry” in French.
Ok…that’s I lie. I just made it up. But it might as well be true.
This chef made me work a two-man station by myself. I showed up at 10 AM and unlocked the restaurant. I was the dessert guy as well as the garde manger guy. I needed to get desserts started early before the other cooks came into the kitchen and got the place all humid with their prep work and liquor breath.
I prepped all day, ran service, cleaned the kitchen, and drove a half hour home. I did that six days a week. I was paid $18,000 a year. I was usually out around 10 PM. If we had a large tasting course on the weekends, It would be 11:30 or midnight before I left.
I did not get a lunch break
The sous chef was required to make a staff meal. It was part of his job. We were allowed to eat only if we had completed our prep work. This was difficult. This was a farm-to-table restaurant and Chef changed the menu daily. Kinda hard to prep in a reasonable amount of time when everything from yesterday is useless…
Service started at 5. Staff meal had to be done by 4:30. This staff meal was for Chef and the waitstaff. The cooks were too busy trying to get ready for service. He would make himself a plate and go eat and laugh with the waitstaff who had just arrived. I know this because it was an open kitchen. I could see them. Then he would go outside, chain smoke a few cigarettes, and finally come back in and ask us if we needed any help.
This was not an isolated incident. This is the service industry. This will always be the service industry. Lunch break laws, even when in place, don’t mean shit in this world.
The sad thing is that these people feel like this is the life they deserve. They’re treated like shit by employers and then people like YOU, yes YOU, make it worse by bitching and complaining about things that have nothing to do with them. You take your own frustrations out on these complete and total strangers and you should be ashamed of yourself for it.
As someone who has been in this industry since 1998, I’ve seen it and dealt with it on a regular basis. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t hesitate to throw someone’s bullshit right back in their face. As irony would have it, I’ve never been fired for this reason. My “take no shit” attitude, while not always healthy, has gotten me promoted, respected by my peers, and laid more times than I can count.
What bothers me are the people who are too spineless and meek to stand up for themselves. What pisses me off are the managers and owners who not only think it’s ok for customers to treat an employee this way, but also treat their own employees the exact same.
Our job is to cook your food. Or take your order. Or check you into your hotel room.
Everything else is out of our jurisdiction. Service people get paid to do one job. They wanna do it and go home. I’m not your weatherman. I’m not an HVAC specialist. I’m not an asshole because I have no idea how to get to South Bend, Indiana from this hotel. So fuck you. And to all the shit owners and managers out there that treat your employees like shit, fuck you too.
Dear members of the working poor. These industries that rely on us will never change. Until you decide that you deserve better than this then you don’t deserve better.
Related: You aren’t stupid
You’ll be treated like you’re less than nothing until YOU decide to make a move. Make it with confidence and don’t look back. The middle finger that everyone sees from a distance should suffice.
I realize this post has veered from lunch break laws but I think all topics covered are equally important.
If you want to move away from the working poor class, you need to walk away from these kinds of jobs. They will always treat you like trash. This is the way these industries have always operated. Find something else to do for a living.
Leave a comment below and give me your thoughts on today’s post. Tune in next week for another exciting journal entry!