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More South Florida restaurant workers join employment lawsuits

South Florida has seen a lot of employment-law-related activity centered in the restaurant industry over the past few months. Our last post focused on a lawsuit against the owner/operator of a South Florida restaurant. Several women who worked for the restaurant alleged that they were victims of sexual harassment by a customer and that management did nothing to keep them safe or rectify the situation.

One of the victims alleged that she was fired in retaliation for trying to hire a lawyer and file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Now, another group of restaurant workers in South Florida has been allowed to join a nationwide class-action lawsuit against a restaurant alleging wage and hour violations and race discrimination.

Six workers from a restaurant in Miami have joined a lawsuit against the restaurant and its parent company, which is also based in Florida. The suit already includes plaintiffs in several major cities around the United States.

The Florida plaintiffs allege that while working as service assistants and dishwashers in the restaurant, they were not paid for overtime hours, were not paid for all hours they worked and that those who were tipped employees were not paid the required minimum wage.

In addition to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Florida's wage and hour laws, the defendants are also accused of violating the Civil Rights Act. The plaintiffs claim that minority employees faced race discrimination regarding opportunities for promotions.

Class-action lawsuits against a company with national reach can sometimes influence changes throughout a whole industry rather than just changing the workplace culture of a single location.

The coordinator of the Miami chapter of the nonprofit advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United supports the recent legal action. He said: "Our goal is to ensure that restaurant workers are treated fairly, as opposed to being taken advantage of in the workplace. It's about time workers banded together and demanded there are changes in the workplace."

Source: Miami Herald, "6 Miami Capital Grille workers join class action suit against Darden," Elaine Walker, Mar. 1, 2012

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