Lawsuit Accuses Olive Garden Parent Company of Wage-And-Hour Violations

Anyone in Houston who has ever waited tables knows it isn't easy work. Waiters and waitresses earn every dime they make. Or they should -- but do they?

A wage and hour lawsuit filed on behalf of employees at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse alleges that their parent company, Darden Residents, has been breaking federal labor laws since at least August 2009 by failing to pay over a thousand waiters and waitresses across the country in accord with applicable labor laws.

The attorney who filed the class action lawsuit alleges that Darden has a company wide policy of paying its waiters and waitresses less than minimum wage and discouraging employees from clocking in when they actually arrive and start working. It is also alleged that Darden should have paid employees the standard minimum wage when they were doing things such as vacuuming or cleaning, rather than the minimum wage for tipped employees, which is significantly less.

At least twice in recent memory, two of Darden's Texas restaurants have been fined by the Department of Labor for underpaying their employees. This lawsuit is notable because it alleges that the problem isn't only with one or two locations, but with the entire company as a business.

The current and former employees he is representing are owed tens of millions of dollars in back pay, he claims.

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