management labor & Employment law

Law Office of David Miklas, P.A.

High end restaurants try to illegally use interns, calling them “stages.”

Last month we published an article explaining why your summer intern is not free labor.  This month the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) slammed a high-end restaurant for doing exactly this. 

Like many restaurants, the target of this DOL investigation relied on “stages” (originates from the French word “stagiaire,” meaning trainee, apprentice or intern) to supply unpaid labor. The restaurant required entry-level kitchen staff known in the industry as “stages” to work one month as a free try-out period before they were considered for paid employment. Once on the payroll, the kitchen workers were paid daily rates from $50 per day for up to 14 hours per day with no consideration of weekly overtime premium.

The stages were asked to perform kitchen work including cleaning dishes, polishing silverware, collecting herbs, prepping vegetables and assembling dishes. The stages also devoted hours to cleaning facilities and painting the exterior of luxurious buildings.

On June 26, 2017 the DOL announced that it reached a settlement with the employer to pay workers $149, 624 in back pay for overtime and minimum wage violations.  Specifically, the company agreed to pay $74,812 in unpaid overtime to 19 kitchen workers and an equal amount in damages, totaling $149,624 for the employees. The company also canceled its “stage program” and agreed to comply with federal wage laws in the future.

A DOL spokesperson stated: “We hope this case can educate others in the high-end restaurant world that ‘staging,’ while common, is unfair to workers, and it is illegal.”


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