The affected employees worked at the following restaurants:
- Olive Garden
- Red Lobster
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Bahama Breeze
- Seasons 52
Specifically, the suit alleged that Darden required tipped employees to perform work while off-the-clock. For example, many 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 or placed an order. Similarly, many Plaintiffs asserted that they were required to punch out of Darden’s time card system and continue working until their assigned tasks, such as closing side work, were finished. As a result, Plaintiffs alleged that Darden did not pay them significant amounts of wages to which they are entitled.
Plaintiffs also alleged that when paying their wages Darden improperly took a “tip credit” (which in most states is permitted), enabling Darden to pay an hourly rate that is lower than the minimum wage under the assumption that tips would make up the difference between the rate Darden pays and the minimum wage. However, Plaintiffs claimed that Darden directed these tipped employees to perform substantial side work duties that do not generate tips, such as general maintenance and preparatory work, without paying proper wages for such work. Plaintiffs asserted that based on the nature and scope of these non-tipped duties, Plaintiffs were entitled to receive, but Darden did not pay, the full applicable minimum wage.
The District Court conditionally certified the class in 2013, and approximately 20,000 people from around the country joined the lawsuit. Unfortunately, in September 2014 the Court decertified the class. The Court stayed the case as to the 50 named plaintiffs and directed them to arbitration. The claims of those named plaintiffs are now pending before the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”). In addition, more than 3,500 servers and bartenders decided to pursue their claims before the AAA and individual demands for arbitration were filed in the latter part of 2014 for each one of them.