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Florida restaurant workers sue employer for underpayment

A Florida-based restaurant company faces a federal lawsuit over claims that it routinely underpaid workers at its locations in Florida and across the United States. The employee rights claim accuses the company of implementing “a companywide pattern and practice of paying its employees below minimum wage and less than what the law requires” and seeks damages for back payment, legal fees and other forms of compensation, which could potentially amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Workers have filled similar claims in other states, but the Florida lawsuit marks the first hoping to represent all of the company’s workers. The lawsuit argues that workers were typically not paid until customers arrived at the restaurants, despite showing up for scheduled shifts that began earlier. It also claims that many employees were forced to work overtime, but were underpaid or were forced to work off the clock for no compensation whatsoever.

The company has denied the lawsuit’s allegations, with a spokesperson arguing that the claims “fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business.” He added that the company and all of its subsidiary brands follow all pursuant state and federal labor laws. The company, which does not franchise any of its locations, claims to employ 180,000 workers at over 1,000 restaurants. Another company represented said that the business was unaware of the allegations until receiving notification of the lawsuits, contending that the plaintiffs did not raise their concern using the company’s internal complaint system.

The company has faced similar accusations, being forced to pay over $24,000 in penalties and $27,000 in back wages over labor violations in 2011. The United States Department of Labor also ordered the company to pay $30,800 in fines and $25,000 in back wages for similar offenses during a separate incident in the same year.

Source: WRIC.com, “Olive Garden, LongHorn workers sue company,” Curt Anderson, Sep. 6, 2012