Darden Restaurants, the parent company of the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains, has been with a class-action wage and hour lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, claims that Darden has been breaking federal employment laws since at least August 2009 by underpaying around one thousand servers across the country and, as such, owes current and former employees tens of millions of dollars in back pay.
If the allegations in the lawsuit are true (and please notice we said “if”), then Darden’s conduct should offend just about all of us here in Detroit. After all, it’s a basic assumption of our society that people deserve to be paid for the work they’ve done; anything less than fair pay for fair work offends our traditional notions of what’s just and appropriate in the workplace.
Although individual Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters have been find by various state employment regulation bodies, this lawsuit is notable because it is alleging that Darden had company-wide policies that broke employment laws.
Specifically, the attorney who represents the workers claims that servers were discouraged from clocking in if they showed up for their assigned shifts and the restaurant was not busy. He also said servers were underpaid for the time they spent cleaning and doing other non-tipped work; they should have been paid the standard hourly minimum wage for such activities, not the hourly minimum wage for tipped employees, which is quite a bit less.
A spokesman for Darden said that all of the company’s brands comply with all applicable state and federal laws and that the allegations “fly in the face of our values and how operate our business.”
Source: Houston Chronicle, “Olive Garden, LongHorn workers sue company,” Curt Anderson, Sept. 6, 2012