Outback Steakhouse restaurants, a subsidiary of Florida’s Bloomin’ Brands Inc., are being sued on behalf of all hourly employees in a proposed wage and hour class action. While the complaint levels a number of allegations, perhaps the most damaging are the ones dealing with the company’s apparent refusal to properly pay its hourly employees. This is not the first time Bloomin’ Brands has been sued for similar matters.
The lawsuit was filed in Nevada by two former employees. Plaintiffs allege that the restaurant required employees to put in “Outback Time,” a practice in which employees were sometimes required to report to work up to one and one half hours before being permitted to clock in. In the suit, plaintiffs state that workers on the opening shift would regularly arrive two hours prior to the opening of the restaurant, but were requested to not clock in until a half hour before opening. Moreover, the complaint cites the company’s failure to provide employees with mandatory breaks or appropriate compensation for employees training new workers. The plaintiffs argue that they were also refused payment for time spent attending online classes at Bloomin’ Brands Inc. University even though the completion of such classes was a requirement of their employment.
A Bloomin’ Brands spokesperson vehemently denies the allegations, yet a history of other employment related lawsuits might work against them in this case. In recent years, the company has settled a lawsuit against a disabled man who was wrongfully discharged from his job at Outback Steakhouse. Another complaint filed in Minnesota alleged that servers were unlawfully required to share their tips with hosts and staff that bussed tables. Again, the company paid a hefty settlement. Bloomin’ Brands has also been sued for discrimination against female employees that kept them from reaching the upper tiers of management. Once again, the organization was forced to settle with a sizable payment.
These lawsuits and others like them demonstrate that savvy employees who are aware of their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act have the power to address the sometimes abusive practices of employers and correct them. This is usually at very significant cost to employers.
Employers should avoid gambling that not understanding and/or not implementing legal wage and hour procedures could save a few dollars in the short term. This is a gamble that the employer will almost always lose.
Sylvester, Oppenheim & Linde represents businesses and their owners in most types of litigation. If your business has a legal problem, contact Richard Oppenheim directly for a prompt, no charge initial consultation. You may use the contact form in the left column or call 818-461-8500.