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Underpaying workers means lawsuits for Florida based company

You'd be hard pressed to find a person in Florida who hasn't heard of Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Many people may not know however that these franchise restaurants are owned by the umbrella company Darden Restaurants Inc.

But recent events in Miami have made this company a well known name after a series of lawsuits pointed out that the company violated federal labor laws by underpaying thousands of its workers.

The lead lawyer in the case claims that Darden Restaurants Inc. has a companywide pattern and practice of paying its employees below minimum wage, sometimes less than what the law requires.

A Darden spokesman says otherwise, stating that "each of our brands complies with all federal and state labor and employment laws."

The Department of Labor has allegedly found violations similar to those claimed in the lawsuit. Because of this, Darden was assessed a $30,800 fine in the case.

The lawsuit, filed in a Miami federal court, seeks to collectively represent current and past employees who worked for Darden from August 2009 to present. It also seeks potentially millions of dollars in back pay and other compensation, plus interest and attorney fees, says the lead attorney.

There are similar lawsuits pending in other states, but the one filed in Florida is the first to seek representation to all of Darden's workforce across the country. This may be difficult as several states do not have state minimum wage laws for service personnel.

Source: ABC News, "Olive Garden, LongHorn Workers Sue Company," Curt Anderson, Sept. 6, 2012

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