By Becky Billingsley
Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, Myrtle Beach – Restaurant servers throughout the United States who think their employers unfairly denied them wages and tips are fighting back with class action lawsuits.
A current class action suit is being filed by employees of Darden Restaurants including Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and The Capital Grille. Earlier this year employees of Lovin’ Oven, the company that owns 21 Main at North Beach in North Myrtle Beach, won a $4,750,000 judgment in a similar lawsuit.
The Lovin’ Oven lawsuit was filed Jan. 25, 2011 in the New York southern district of United States District Court. Plaintiff Robert Ramirez filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and 269 other class members who alleged Lovin’ Oven Catering Suffolk, Inc., and its owners, William Riley and Gerald Scollan, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law because they, “…unlawfully retained gratuities to which service employees were entitled and failed to properly compensate service employees for overtime hours worked.”
Ultimately the defendants did not admit or concede liability or damages, but an agreement was reached on Oct. 27, 2011, to compensate employees over a three-year period in the amount of $4,750,000. The employees were members of a class including all persons who were servers or bartenders at Tribeca Rooftop, a 15,000 square-foot penthouse-catering venue in New York City. The resolution was finalized on Feb. 24, 2012.
Specifically at issue in the Lovin’s Oven lawsuit were employees’ claims that while customers were charged 20% mandatory gratuities, the defendants kept those tips.
In the case of Mathis v. Darden Restaurants, Inc., the lawsuit, “…claims that Darden Restaurants, Inc. and it related companies (“Darden”) failed to pay proper wages or overtime pay to its tipped employees, such as servers, as required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Such employees – on a nationwide basis – who are currently employed or previously worked at The Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille from August 2009 to present are invited to submit paperwork to be evaluated for addition to the class action case.
Employees of those restaurants who believe they should be included in the case can visit THIS WEB SITE to fill out a case evaluation form.
According to the Darden lawsuit Web site, the allegations include:
Specifically, Plaintiffs Amanda Mathis and James Hamilton allege that Darden required them and other servers to perform work while off-the-clock. Plaintiffs claim that they were required to report to work and begin work at the start of their scheduled shifts, but were not allowed to clock into Darden’s time card system until their first customers arrived. Similarly, Plaintiffs assert that they were required to punch out of Darden’s time card system and continue working until their assigned tasks were finished. As a result, Plaintiffs allege that Darden did not pay them significant amounts of wages to which they are entitled.
Plaintiffs Amanda Mathis and James Hamilton also allege that Darden paid them wages below the applicable minimum wage, due to their status as tipped employees. Plaintiffs expected to make up the difference by working for tips from customers. However, Plaintiffs claim that Darden directed them and other servers to perform significant duties that would not generate tips such as general maintenance and preparatory work without paying proper wages for such work. Plaintiffs assert that, as a result of the nature and scope of these non-tipped duties, Plaintiffs were entitled to receive, but Darden did not pay, the full applicable minimum wage.
This lawsuit provides Darden’s current and former servers from the restaurants listed below the opportunity to join together and seek back wages owed to them for the time spent doing general maintenance or preparatory duties, which they performed for less than minimum wage.
Off the Clock Work
Plaintiffs and the other tipped employees are entitled to, among other categories of damages, wages for the time during which they worked, for which Darden did not pay them.
Tip Credit Violations
Plaintiffs and the other tipped employees are entitled to, among other categories of damages, the applicable minimum wage for the time during which they worked, without any tip credit deduction taken.