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Darden Restaurants Inc. sued in Miami for wage-and-hour dispute

The people of Miami likely have heard that Darden Restaurants Inc. have been sued in federal court for alleged wage-and-hour claims. The restaurant giant owns four large chains, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Red Lobster, and this is the first lawsuit that will try to represent employees of all four brands. There have been other lawsuits filed in other states, but this could have a far greater effect with all of Darden's employee's involved.

The lawsuit alleges that Darden violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when employees were not properly paid overtime. Whenever an employee works over a 40-hour week, he or she is entitled to 1.5 times his or her normal pay rate. Darden also allegedly forced restaurant staff to show up for work, but they were not allowed to clock in until customers actually arrived at the restaurant. Other employees said they had to clock out while still working.

The final allegation is that employees who received tips (employees that need not usually make minimum wage before tips), worked more than 20 percent of the time on odd jobs around the restaurant. Whenever a tipped employee spends more than 20 percent of his or her time on side work, he or she deserves minimum wage.

These are serious accusations against the restaurant chain, which says that they go against the company's values. Darden has been at the center of several other wage-and-hour disputes, however. In 2011, the Department of Labor found violations at individual restaurants. The Department both fined Darden and forced it to pay back pay to the affected employees.

This lawsuit could, however, cost the restaurant giant a great deal more money if the court finds that it has had widespread violations.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Olive Garden, LongHorn workers sue company," Curt Anderson, Sept. 6, 2012

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