Employment Lawsuit against Restaurant Chain Claims Employees Were Underpaid

September 25, 2012

Once again, Darden Restaurants is in the news as employees allege that they are not being paid fairly. Darden Restaurants is a huge company, best known for its Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants that are located in Kentucky, Indiana, and throughout the United States.

Only two plaintiffs have been named in the unfair pay lawsuit, one in Florida and one in Virginia. However, the attorney who filed the lawsuit sees it becoming a class action lawsuit that could potentially cover thousands of previous and current Darden employees that were employed by the company anytime between 2009 and 2012. The unfair wages lawsuit was filed in Florida, where Darden is headquartered.

The lawsuit is based on the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA was passed in 1938 and established minimum wage and the 40-hour workweek. It also stated that employees were entitled to time-and-a-half for every hour they worked over 40 hours. FSLA also states that tipped employees are allowed to keep their tips and they will not become the property of the employer. A tipped employee may be required to put their tips in a "tip pool." The tips in the pool are then shared among the employees that regularly receive tips as part of their compensation. An amendment to the Act in 1946 stated that an employee should be paid for any time spent doing work specifically for the employer, even if it was not during the employee's scheduled shift or regular work hours. Another amendment relevant to this case occurred in 1996. Up until this time, employees who received tips regularly were paid 50% of the current minimum wage. But in 1996, the tipped employee's hourly rate was frozen at $2.13 per hour by the federal government.

The current case against Darden claims that the company is in violation of several parts of FLSA. According to the lawsuit, tipped employees were required to perform work normally done by someone who was paid at least minimum wage, such as cleaning and filling condiment containers. Even though this work took up more than 20% of their time, they were not paid minimum wage for it. They also worked more than 40 hours per week, but were not paid time-and-a-half for their overtime. Sometimes when they came to work at their scheduled time, they weren't allowed to clock in until customers arrived; so even though they were at work when scheduled, they were not paid for that time.

Restaurant servers work very hard for their money and are frequently at the mercy of their customers who may stiff them on tips, not even because of bad service, but perhaps because they were just in a foul mood or had a bad day. The attorney who filed this case hopes that it will serve to help these underpaid workers receive the pay that they deserve, at least from their employers. The Kentucky and Indiana employment law attorneys at Miller & Falkner represent employees who believe they are not receiving the money they have earned through their hard work, regardless of whether they are a tipped employee, and hourly employee, or a salaried employee.

Source:

Olive Garden, LongHorn employees sue company; Associated Press; Curt Anderson; September 7, 2012