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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, November 16, 2000

Employers not
required to give breaks

Question: I work at a fast-food restaurant. People have been swarming in and ordering hamburgers by the busloads and we do not have enough workers to handle this. Many times we are not able to have our breaks because we are shorthanded. Auwe! And why is it that managers do not wear hairnets? I think this is very unsanitary.

Answer: You should reconfirm what your employer's policy is regarding breaks, because that is what rules in your case.

Under state law, employers are not required to give breaks unless workers are 14 or 15 years old, according to an official with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Breaks are a matter of company policy, he said.

But if you feel you are subject to unfair labor practices, call the department's Enforcement Division at 586-8777.

As for hairnets (or caps), it depends on the situation, said Brian Choy, chief of the state Department of Health's sanitation branch.

Under Chapter 12 (food establishment sanitation) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the state health director "may require that food-handling employees effectively restrain their head and facial hair to prevent the contamination of food or food contact services," Choy said.

Exactly how you would "restrain" facial hair is unclear, but caps can substitute for hairnets, he said. Managers, depending on their duties, may not be required to wear either.

However, if you feel sanitation is a problem, call Choy's office at 586-8000 and someone will investigate.

Mint advice

To those Hawaii citizens who ordered the $20 gold St. Gaudens coin from the Old New England Mint: If you are dissatisfied with what you received, write to: 1. Better Business Bureau, 821 N. Main St., Est., Wallingford, CT 06492-2420. 2. Department of Consumer Protection, 165 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT 06106 and 3. U.S. Postal Service, Attn: Postal Inspection Service, 4 S. Main Wallingford, Hartford, CT 06492. I responded to a July newspaper ad saying gold was discovered in a Swiss bank and that 800 $20 uncirculated St. Gaudens coins were left. I paid $2,545 for 5 coins on a 30-day money-back guarantee. Instead they sent me five $5 new gold coins worth $328. -- No name

(We checked with the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii, which passed on a report prepared by the BBB of Connecticut regarding Centennial Productions Inc., which is also known as Centennial Sports, Old New England Mint, Olde New England Mint and Washington Monetary Authority.

(The BBB opened its file on the company in August, 1999, and its files show "a pattern of no response to customer complaints brought to its attention by the Bureau and a pattern of failure to deliver the promised products or services as represented."

(The caveat from the BBB is that its reports "are provided solely to assist you in exercising your own best judgment and are subject to change at any time.")


To the flight attendant who unkindly mimicked my speech impediment on a Maui-to-Oahu flight recently. It used to be that an airline stewardess was the epitome of grace and class. Not any more, I guess. -- Kaimuki


To the people who helped my Dad when he fell and broke his hip at the open market at Kalakaua Gym in Kalihi on Oct. 28. He's 86 but very independent, and we didn't know what happened until we got a call from Straub Hospital. -- Grateful Family

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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