Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse Workers Sue Company over Labor Laws

April 26, 2013

5773079717_d0f9a39fd6.jpgWage and hour attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report that workers from Olive Garden, Red Lobster, The Capital Grille, and LongHorn Steakhouse are now suing the parent company, Darden Restaurants, for violating federal labor laws.

The lawsuit was filed in late 2012 in Miami federal court by current and past employees of Darden's various chain restaurants. Plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in back pay and other compensation for the company's national pattern and practice of paying its employees less than federal standards and requiring them to do work outside their responsibilities.

The suit states that servers have to perform a large amount of non-serving work, such as dishwashing and vacuuming, for which they should have received additional pay. Plaintiffs are hoping to correct these wrongs and be a catalyst for change for servers throughout the nation.

Darden is the world's largest casual dining corporation. Based in Orlando, it has more than 2,000 restaurants in North America and employs more than 180,000 people. In 2011, the company agreed to pay the federal government more than $25,000 in back wages to its Olive Garden workers in Mesquite, Texas, in addition to over $30,000 in fines. The Capital Grille was charged with similar accusations in early 2012 in a lawsuit filed by employee-advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers.

Most of the nation's low-wage employers, such as Walmart and Darden, have fully recovered from the recession and are again enjoying large profits. Unfortunately, these profits are occurring at the same time that many workers' paychecks are coming up short and where the minimum wage has not increased in three years.

The lowest-paid workers employed at these corporations (factory workers, fast food employees, servers) are still struggling to make ends meet, despite the immense profits of the companies themselves. The strong financial position of these corporations indicates that it is time to improve wages - or, in the absence of this, to file wage, hour and overtime lawsuits.

The federal government seems to agree. In recent years more than 300 wage and hour investigators have been added to departments throughout the country, which won nearly $225 million in back wages in 2011. Just one year earlier, that number was only $176 million.

If the federal minimum wage standard had kept pace with the rising cost of living, it would be about $10.55 an hour by now. In March 2013, the House rejected a Democratic push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, keeping it at the current and abysmal $7.25.

Thus, workers around the nation are fighting back, and large, immensely lucrative corporations make the most sense as targets. They are the companies who can more than afford to fairly pay their employees and boost consumer demand, however, they simply choose not to.

In New York City, for example, thousands of fast food workers recently staged walk-outs in protest. They are fighting for the right to organize as a union and for decent living standards. Despite working full-time, they often face evictions, are unable to put food on the table, and many are living in homeless shelters. Their organization, Fast Food Forward, notes that the average daily salaries of many of fast food's CEOs is $25,000, or more than double what their workers earn in an entire year.

Paying slightly higher wages will do the majority of the country's largest low-wage employers absolutely no harm. It will, however, have a direct impact on our national economy, as low-wage workers will then be able to spend those wages on basic needs for their families - food, clothing, and ultimately cars and homes.

The bottom line is that we need to put more money in the pockets of the people that are the foundation for our economy, which will in turn boost not only their struggling families, but our unemployment and economic situations as well. If you or a loved one is being unfairly treated in the workplace, you have important legal rights. Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins can help you receive maximum compensation for any back wages, overtime violations, emotional distress, or unnecessary side work.