A class action lawsuit against the corporation behind Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and other restaurants has been filed in federal court in Florida. The suit alleges that Darden Restaurants, Inc. and its related companies illegally cheat employees out of wages and overtime.
The named plaintiffs are two former servers at Longhorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden in Florida and Georgia. The lawsuit alleges that the restaurants made them work without pay by forcing employees to arrive but then wait for enough customers to arrive before allowing the workers to actually “clock in” and thus start getting paid. In other words, the workers claim they were made to be at work for free until the restaurant deemed things busy enough to allow them to start getting paid. Similarly, the lawsuit asserts that workers were often required to punch out but yet continue working until their assigned tasks were finished.
Even when allowed to be “on the clock,” the servers were considered “tipped” employees and paid less than minimum wage by the restaurant. In theory, that would be legal because servers can earn tips on top of their hourly pay. However, the lawsuit alleges that tipped workers at Darden’s restaurants are often made to perform work for which they could never earn a tip—such as food prep in the kitchen, rolling napkins and vacuuming. When performing work for which they could not earn tips, workers may not be paid less than the federal minimum wage.
The lawsuit, Mathis v. Darden Restaurants, Inc., claims that Darden Restaurants, Inc. and its related companies failed to pay proper wages or overtime pay to its tipped employees, such as servers, as required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), because:
- Employees were required by Darden to work off-the-clock without pay, both before and after their assigned shifts.
- Darden directed them and other servers to perform work that would not generate tips, without paying proper wages for such work.
- Darden failed to pay appropriate overtime wages
The lawsuit provides current and former servers from the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille the opportunity to join together and seek back wages owed to them.
Darden faces similar accusations in a federal lawsuit filed by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a New York advocacy group for restaurant workers. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also fined Darden twice last year, saying employees at Olive Garden and Red Lobster in Texas had to work off the clock.
If you have worked for a restaurant and you believe you were not paid properly for your hours worked, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out a free legal consultation form.