Darden Restaurants Face Federal Lawsuit Over Server Wages

10/06/2012 // Los Angeles, CA , USA // Keller Grover LLP // Eric Grover // (press release)

Miami, FL — A federal lawsuit charges Darden Restaurants Inc., owners of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, with underpaying their workers at their popular, nationwide restaurants. The wage-and-hour lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida under the Fair Labor Standards Act on Thursday, September 6, 2012, reports Eric Grover, a Los Angeles wage-and-hour attorney.

The lawsuit accuses the Orlando, Florida-based company of failing to meet federally mandated minimum wage laws, as well as forcing their wait staff to work “off-the-clock” before or after their scheduled shifts, Reuters reports. According to the complaint, staff was not allowed to clock in until guests began arriving, rather than when their shifts were scheduled to begin.

In addition, the suit charges Darden with requiring their servers, who make less than minimum wage plus tips, to perform an excess amount of non-tipped duties, like rolling napkins and vacuuming, the Orlando Sentinel revealed. The suit also claims that when servers worked more than a 40-hour week, they were not paid time and a half, as mandated by labor laws.

The wage-and-hour lawsuit is seeking class-action status for “thousands of individuals” who are either current or former Darden employees dating back to August 2009. It is also seeking to recover back wages that could potentially reach into the millions of dollars.

Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said to Reuters that the company takes “any claims of impropriety seriously.” Jeffers also alleges that Darden has no record of the plaintiffs in the complaint attempting to resolve their alleged pay complaints through an internal “dispute resolution” process.

Furthermore, an email statement asserted, “…the allegations contained in the complaint, we believe they are baseless and fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business. Each of our brands complies with all federal and state labor and employment laws, and we’re proud of our standing as an employer of choice.”

Darden is facing a similar 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 because employees at a Texas Olive Garden and Red Lobster had to work off the clock, reported The Orlando Sentinel.

The Fortune 500 company also owns the LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille chains.

“Requiring your employees to perform work while not on the clock is against state and federal labor regulations. If the accusations prove true, then Darden has been taking advantage of their employees and the employees should be compensated for every minute they worked,” says Eric Grover a Los Angeles employment lawyer.

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