Discussed in Darden Restaurants’ Proposed Class Action Lawsuit
In a case that has made headlines nationwide, a group of employees from Darden Restaurants are suing the fast-food giant for $1.75 million due to wage theft. According to the suit, Darden repeatedly failed to pay tipped employees and did not make up the difference in wages when the tipped employee’s wages did not keep pace with the restaurant’s bottom line. The suit also claims Darden did not properly train employees on the employment laws of Florida and did not provide sufficient training on tipped employee wages. After being presented with evidence of the restaurant’s policies, the attorney representing the employees asked a judge to allow the suit to go forward.
The lawsuit claims Darden failed to make up the difference in wages September because it failed to calculate the taxes that would be owed from patrons who dined at its five Florida restaurants.
When the company calculated the taxes, it only included the taxes owed to the federal government and not to the state. As a result of the calculation error, Darden was not liable for the taxes. In addition to not being liable, the restaurant is also being accused of illegally discriminating against employees in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA refers to a federal law that requires restaurants to make their businesses accessible to and functional for disabled persons.
The lawsuit was filed by Ginger Gibson, an attorney with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
According to the lawsuit, Darden did not instruct its servers about the federal and Florida wage laws. The employees were simply expected to work for the restaurant owners as if they were working for any other employer. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Darden did not make accommodations for handicapped patrons who needed to use restroom facilities outside of their kitchen because of the fact that the restaurant operators did not have a handicap van in which to place such equipment.
In response to the lawsuit, Darden maintained that it has “no understanding” as to why the two issues were brought up in the complaint.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint is essentially a rehash of previous discussions that they’ve had with the Internal Revenue Service regarding their payroll issues,” said Darden. “The Internal Revenue Service has nothing to do with either the payroll matter or the accommodations that the restaurant operators provided to guests with disabilities.” A hearing is scheduled for later this month.
The Florida Bureau of Labor and Insurance, which is responsible for protecting the rights of workers, will be the lead plaintiff in the case.
Ginger Gibson will serve as the state attorney general’s private law counsel. There are two class-action plaintiffs and five individual players who will be named as representatives of the class of plaintiffs. Plaintiffs who are unable to reach a settlement through mediation will be referred to a Florida state court. At this point, only the named plaintiffs and Darden will be permitted to proceed with a lawsuit against Darden restaurants.
Last, but not least, Darden is being sued by Ginger Gibson over the firing of one of its disabled former server.
If both parties can’t agree on a settlement by the conclusion of the year, there will be a putative class action suit filed by the Bureau of Labor and Insurance. It’s important to remember that, if a settlement is reached and approved by a Florida state court, both sides will be forced to go to court if the case goes to trial.