UnderCover Waitress: Darden Lawsuit Links

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Darden Lawsuit Links

As a small service, I have gathered a handful of links to news items covering the lawsuit that food servers filed against Darden Restaurants. I hope the knowledge that this is being taken seriously and talked about in the news is helpful in some way.

This is the most important link: 

http://dardenlawsuit.com/

I believe the Darden Lawsuit site was put together by David Lichter, a lawyer representing the two named plaintiffs in this case. Please visit if you work or have worked for Darden. Know your rights.

And now the rest, in no particular order:

Waiter Pay

"In a Complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, servers who worked at several Longhorn Steakhouse locations in Florida and at an Olive Garden in Georgia allege that the restaurants failed to pay their employees for all hours worked..."

"Lawyers for the workers also allege that similar pay violations occurred at different locations and brand restaurants centrally owned and operated by Darden and its subsidiaries throughout Florida and the United States..."

"...and Louis Pechman of Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP (and founder of waiterpay.com), filed a lawsuit on behalf of waiters at Capital Grille alleging similar violations.  That lawsuit is still pending in New York federal court."

So, it seems that this lawsuit is filed by servers in Florida and Georgia, but the lawsuit alleges that the same violations occurred all over the United States. This clause helps pave the way for class-action damages for any all Darden servers who had their rights to pay violated.

I included the last paragraph to plug that the founder of the waiter pay website is a lawyer who represents servers. :-) (I have no connection to Waiter Pay.)

http://waiterpay.com/capital-grille-longhorn-steakhouse-olive-garden-and-red-lobster-sued-in-class-action-for-unpaid-wages-and-overtime/#more-2092

Reuters

""We think it's the first lawsuit in the country that seeks a nationwide collective action involving all four of Darden's flagship restaurants, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille," said David Lichter of Higer Lichter & Givner, one of the lead attorneys who filed the complaint.

Lichter said it was not immediately clear how much money he and other lawyers would potentially demand that Darden pay out due to the lawsuit, in the form of back pay and other compensation.

But he said the complaint was aimed at putting the entire restaurant and hospitality industry on notice that abuses targeting poorly paid "tipped employees" would no longer be tolerated.

"In these times, people are struggling to get by. They're entitled to earn at least the minimum wage," Lichter told Reuters."

Some of this gets repeated at Yahoo News! as you shall see. But the crackdown on the restaurant industry is needed and a long time in coming. 

Also, am including this tidbit for your amusement:

"Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said the company takes "any claims of impropriety seriously." But he said Darden had no record of the plaintiffs in Thursday's complaint attempting to resolve their alleged pay complaints through an internal "dispute resolution" process.

"We believe they are baseless and fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business," Jeffers said."

Internal "dispute resolution" processes are set up not to help employees resolve disputes per se, but to prevent them from standing up for themselves and costing the company money and embarrassment. This, of course, is my jaded and cynical opinion. 

http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/2012/09_-_September/Darden_Restaurants_hit_with_lawsuit_over_wages/

Associated Press

"Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said the allegations "fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business... Each of our brands complies with all federal and state labor and employment laws, and we're proud of our standing as an employer of choice," he said in an email."

Okay, but the Associated Press goes on to report:

"The Department of Labor has found violations similar to those claimed in the lawsuit in several individual investigations, including a 2011 probe in which the company agreed to pay more than $25,000 in back wages to Olive Garden workers in Mesquite, Texas. Darden was also assessed a $30,800 fine in that case.

Also in 2011, Darden paid more than $27,000 in back pay and a nearly $24,000 civil penalty for labor violations involving 109 current and former Red Lobster workers in Lubbock, Texas, according to the Labor Department.

There are similar lawsuits pending in Illinois and New York..."

Perhaps Mr. Jeffers would like to clarify which of Darden's values these lawsuits fly in the face of?

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hOOy8y0re_MM5Zc2gpCKNBRL8AGg?docId=4501ebb93aa64622ac5d241cf4174b10

Inside Counsel

"The suit names only two plaintiffs but seeks to represent possibly thousands of individuals who are current or former Darden employees from 2009 to the present. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the plaintiffs are seeking tens of millions of dollars in back pay and other compensation.

Darden Spokesman Rich Jeffers said in a statement that the company believes the claims “are baseless and fly in the face of our values and how we operate our business.”

But Darden isn’t a stranger to labor violations. Last year, the company paid more than $27,000 in back pay and a $24,000 civil penalty for labor violations involving 109 current and former Red Lobster employees in Lubbock, Texas, as well as $25,000 in back pay and a $30,800 fine for labor violations involving Olive Garden employees in Mesquite, Texas."

Yeah, I guess the other suits were baseless, as well.

http://www.insidecounsel.com/2012/09/07/darden-restaurants-accused-of-underpaying-servers

Orlando Sentinel

"Attorneys are seeking to represent thousands of employees who worked at the four chains since August 2009 with the goal of collecting potentially millions of dollars in back wages...

...Lichter said the lawsuit could be expanded to include other chains. Darden also owns Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V's. It completed the purchase of Yard House last week."

Another reference to possible class-action. Those who work at Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, and Eddie V.'s may not be left behind. With any luck, Darden will have to stop abusing workers before they turn Yard House upside down.

Also, the Florida paper mentions ROC United:

"Darden faces similar accusations in a federal lawsuit filed by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a New York advocacy group for restaurant workers."

Gee, I wonder if we are seeing a pattern of behavior:

"The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division also fined Darden twice last year, saying employees at Olive Garden and Red Lobster in Texas had to work off the clock."

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-06/business/os-darden-server-lawsuit-20120906_1_darden-restaurants-bahama-breeze-longhorn-steakhouse

Yahoo! News

""We think it's the first lawsuit in the country that seeks a nationwide collective action involving all four of Darden's flagship restaurants, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille," said David Lichter of Higer Lichter & Givner, one of the lead attorneys who filed the complaint.
"Since the lawsuit has been filed this morning we've been contacted by servers around the country who have expressed interest in the action," Lichter said... [Lichter] said the complaint was aimed at putting the entire restaurant and hospitality industry on notice that abuses targeting poorly paid "tipped employees" would no longer be tolerated."

Good for you guys for contacting the lawyers and expressing interest in the the action!

http://news.yahoo.com/darden-restaurants-hit-lawsuit-over-wages-221704548--finance.html

Oregon (Powered by the Oregonian)

Oregon has stricter labor laws than the federal rules and regulations. There is no tip credit in Oregon; that means that waitresses and waiters make full minimum wage plus tips.

"Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants... have a history of Oregon wage complaints. 

The restaurants' Oregon employees have filed 11 wage-related complaints since 2000, the Bureau of Labor and Industries said Friday.

Given the operation's size, the quantity of complaints isn't necessarily cause for concern, bureau spokesman Bob Estabrook said. Still, the state takes every case seriously, he said. "It only takes one really heinous case to be absolutely devastating to an individual worker," he said."

That's nice of him. Unfortunately:

"Darden's Oregon employees have twice alleged they weren't paid what they were owed, once at a Red Lobster restaurant in 2001 and again at a Red Lobster in 2006. Details of those claims are unclear because the bureau only saves files for two years, Estabrook said."

So, he takes these things seriously for two years. After that all of that paperwork is a nasty fire hazard.(?)

"Other complaints deal with issues such as late pay or lack of breaks. In those cases, the bureau sent warning letters to the company outlining the issues."

Remember, federal law does not require employers to provide breaks. Oregon law does. Also, news flash for Estabrook: Darden does not take warnings seriously.

http://www.oregonlive.com/money/index.ssf/2012/09/olive_garden_red_lobster_have.html

Human Resources Journal

"Its lead lawyer David Lichter said that the lawsuit seeks tens of millions of dollars in back pay and other compensation, plus interest and attorney fees. He said, “Darden has a companywide pattern and practice of paying its employees below minimum wage and less than what the law requires. We’re seeking not only to correct the wrongs that have occurred at Darden, but hopefully this will stimulate change across the country.”"

Awesome, Mr. Lichter. :-) Change across the country is what we need.

Also, for anybody who thinks that tens of millions of dollars is too much, routinely stealing pay from employees adds up. If someone stole $10 from you, should they only have to pay back $1 because $10 is too much?

http://www.humanresourcesjournal.com/2012/09/darden-restaurants-accused-of-violating-federal-labor-laws-workers-take-it-to-court/

Press Enterprise

"Darden is the owner of the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille chains. All told, it’s about 1,900 restaurants for a chain that has 168,000 employees... Along with the back wages and overtime, the plaintiffs are requesting Darden inform all its employees that they have the right to join this lawsuit."

Wow. Maybe Darden thought it was too big to fail? And I love the last part about getting Darden to inform it's employees that they may join in the lawsuit. Heh. I'd love to see footage (or even just a written form) of a manager informing workers of this... but it is not worth anybody getting in more trouble.

http://www.pe.com/business/business-columns/commercial-real-estate-headlines/20120907-workplace-lawsuit-filed-by-darden-restaurant-servers.ece

Lawyers and Settlements

Yup, there is a short blurb about the lawsuit.

http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/lawsuit/darden-restaurants-class-action-capital-grille.html#.UEvgSKRSTOV

News, law journals, and human resource journals are all talking about this. Best of luck to all.


26 comments :

  1. Well done I'm glad someone is taking notice

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  2. Thank you so much for keeping this in the news! I am sharing your blog with my fellow Darden lobsterbots via Facebook. I appreciate the time and writing talent that you share with us avid followers. Bless you!

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    1. Awwww! :) /blush/
      Seriously, I am glad it is helping.

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  3. Thanks a million as well. I was named in a lawsuit going back a few months ago, one employee had the balls to stand up and found a great attorney in Boca Raton. I might be able to pass the details of this attorney in a later blog. I was put on the witness list to testify for the employee, myself and others should it have gone to full blown court. Yes, it's true we worked off the clock, and at times not allowed to clock in until it got busy. If you did clock in they handed you a rag and made you wash the walls, with hazardous products.

    I always also asked to get up on a ladder and get as high as I could to wash the walls. I refused to get up on the ladder. Sometimes we waited hours to get a table, off the clock, while others were getting tables. We were asked to sometimes go to the food prep areas and weigh and bag pasta, although not being allowed not to clock in as a food prep person who was making more than 10.00 per hour, so for example if it were a Sunday and you were at 40 hours that week and they needed you badly, you still had to do the food prep, again like weighing and bagging pasta, brocolli, that normally is given to a trained prep person again making more that 10.00 per hour=unpaid proper wage and no proper overtime. Another example of the unpaid wage is being an alley coordinator sometimes amounting to more that 7 or 8 hours during the week, while you are a server, with no compensation.

    The employee who went alone, did win the case. As with the tip reporting, by not being clocked in this grossly hurt servers with no tips to report, and let Darden not pay payroll taxes as owed to the IRS. Another problem is more hours were given to certain servers because they elected to be in the company's share holding. If you were in this program, you had to retain a certain amount of hours, thus you were guarenteed hours while others were not,,, How does that make tip reporting fair game??????????? So, you came to work on a dead day, as scheduled, waited for a table, clocked in and went to go back to do food prep, they said it was part of the servers job, when asked why I couldn't clocked in as a food prep person, you were frowned down to and either co-erced or imtimidated thus creating a hostile environment at times.

    I will be calling in the morning I live in South Florida. The slave game is over Darden, own up to your dignity statement. We were not there to shine your walls with the rags you gave us and Murphy's oil soap which stinks to high heaven. Remember I did put a call into EEOC, and then corporate called me and told me " they were here to help me". I believed that statement just like I have a 747 aircraft for sale for 50 bucks all you have to do is come get it.

    The pos system does not let you clock out if you want to declare more tips, you have to get a manager's approval, guess they are afraid we are going to mess up.

    Anyone out there who stayed knows that we were there for our "guest". We made friends with our guests, they gave us business cards sometimes asking if we would like to visit their business. The church guests always gave us cards, that G.D, was thinking of us, sometimes I carried those cards in my pocket to remind me what the guest was trying to tell me all along, these guests are prominent people who come down from Atlanta for conferences and are powerful people, they have personally invited me to many meetings, see that is how a good server makes a guest connection. On any given day I could tell my company where a guest was visiting from, what cruise they were going on, what ports of call, what airline they arrived on the details go on and on. Some details are so personal that I wish to keep it that way for the guests confided in me.

    There is a universal law called the power of attraction and I think that law finally caught up, plus all you have to do is google law. It is based on the old testament and eye for an eye. I believe there are many servers who are owed back pay, myself as well. We were too afraid to come forward for a long time.

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    1. I too worked for Darden (Red Lobster) and many times i worked off the clock as well as my time being changed to prevent me from getting overtime. One manager in the Greenville Tx. store#732 have changed my time several times. I was always told i would get my time back the following week. That never happened. One time that manager even changed my vacation hours so no overtime would show. Now to worry that manager gave the hours to another employee so that his vacation pay would be higher. We were told not to say nothing because the VIP would tell we should be happy we have a job.

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    2. WOWWWW ... I am also a former server at Olive Garden. I loved the way you touched on and confirmed my rest. was not alone in this. At my store we went through the same practices. I was actually known as our resident "super server". I was asked to work off the clock, made to wait to clock in up to three hours,had to wait up to two hours to find out only that I would not even working even though I was on shift, had to wait to get "talked and cashed out" up to two hours when busy because you have "their cash" on you, told several times and even spoken down on and made to feel like they could replace you. NOT FAIR DARDEN!!! This has got to stop. I can literally go on and on. The managers ALL know this. It is simply practice to over look everything only when it's convenient for them at that moment. They tell you they are a family and it is a total lie. Let me ask you. Would you have your servers come in for shift "bus riders at that" in the snow and on time only to tell them oops your a stand by. This means we would stock off the clock and wait while running food only to be told up to two hours later we don't need you go home. Wow. Thats awesome!!! This happned to me and when I told my Manager I had no bus fare to get home she told me " hmmm well you better ask someone on the floor" UNACCEPTABLE !! I advise anyone else who was a part of this treatment. You deserve what you worked for! ~love

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  4. Hi, continue from previous post. I had to omit some of the post due to going over the 4,000 limit on characters. I also wanted to let you know that I make every effort to proof read and if there is typo's I do apologize as I try to blog in a manner that is coherent and cohesive for all.

    The "spokesperson" for Darden is not a server, therefore not representing us, and again trying to intimidate the servers. This lawsuit is not a farce, not fictious, nor frivolous. I am more than prepared to send a statement to the Sun Sentinel. If anything I strongly urge the servers current and those who left to come forward and at least have the opportunity to speak the truth.

    Corporations by law, by law must answer and adhere to the shareholders first, or face criminal penalties by the trade commission. This is where we "employees get used and abused" and they face a catch 22.

    If I get involved in this lawsuit, I might not be able to speak with anyone or blog about it. If I see the spokesperson again, tell such lies, I will be writing and sending some strong letters out there. This lawsuit is serious enough to have the Federal law involved, so please Darden please don't keep saying this is unfound or not heard of. Perhaps you need to look up the word in the dictionary called mediate, come to terms and come to the truth.

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  5. Also Darden, I don't believe this was the vision of the original founder of these restaurants. We will not tolerate to be slaves anymore, Lincoln freed the slaves and my ancestors were freed many years ago in Egypt.

    I think in the long run, all the employees ask for is Dignity, treat them like normal people and stop the unethical practices, from what I hear your employees and thousands, have lost respect, hope and faith working for you.

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  6. Thank you! Time for justice dammit! No more slave labor for darden!

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  7. I'm a former Darden employee who was treated unfairly. Twenty years ago this chain really cared about its employees but over the past 8 to 10 years they have slowly taken away from the employees. The greed factor set in. I earned merit raises and after 24 years of dedicated service was informed my payrate were being lowered by more than half. I left the company because of what I felt was unfair labor refusing to sign their so called "New policy agreement". I hope and pray Justice will be served and all the people wronged by this company receives their well deserved compensation. These allegations are fact not fiction. I don't care how large the corporation you must be held accountable. So happy people are taking a stand!

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  8. That's a heart story. Your 24 years of service were recognized more than likely by your "guests" and co-workers. But, don't let it get you down, keep your head high and someone can more than likely use your experience.

    Darden had a great vision, I'm not so sure anymore. There is so much more awareness today on diet.

    Have you thought about aleast filing some sort of complaint? Or just sitting down and addressing your true thoughts on paper and writing a letter to Corporate in Orlando? It's hard right now in an unstable ecomomy. Certainly someone out there like me in cyberland is definately wishing you the best and it will come.



    Can anyone let me know if Punitive damages apply in this current lawsuit, or should I just ask an employment attorney?

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    1. Punitive damages are something plaintiffs ask for. I can not imagine them not doing so in this suit. To leave out punitive damages would seem negligent on the lawyer's part, but that is my lay opinion.

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  9. Rich Jeffers sounds like a piece of work....

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  10. Just from blogging, one has to love the above poster. Thank you, Amen.

    There is actually a website, I've not called yet, not sure, as I still feel somewhat unsure and just listening to my heart. ( I can call freely) to the actual lawyer handling the case.

    What I would like to see is maybe ( possibly) filing a deposition under oath, but to exclude myself for monetary gain, in a true effort to help the employees, kinda like a third party, non interest person that could help bring about change.

    Going back to website which I found, asked? If you yourself or know of a loved one that has been affected by this please contact so and so. But you can just call the lawyer representing this. You may even send an email.

    Wait, because Mr. Jeffers is a "spokesperson" he may not know the truth unless he googles and reads blogs and I'm sure he does, now I would not want to walk in his shoes at this moment, Mr. Jeffers, unless you would like me to write a personal note to you, than I suggest highly, that you take the lawsuit seriously by 2, not 2 thousand, 2 employees went to Federal Court, that's all it took was 2 employees to go to court, demanding what is owed to them in back pay.

    They said they "worked off the clock" the highest wage for a non-management employee is probably not more than 10.00 dollars, and you had the balls to screw them, obviously someone has their damn money.

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  11. I had to end the last post because I did not want to go over character. Again, I am more than willing to take a deposition, under oath in an effort to help the 2 employees.

    Shame letter: you might as well register in Swizterland, before it's too late, the goverment is coming after you for back taxes, and STEALING PENNIES AND DOLLARS FROM YOUR EMPLOYEES, YES, stealing pennies and dollars, you as a corporation owe so many back taxes, payroll, and the list goes on, I too wish you the best!

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  12. I worked a 5 hour shift serving in a Darden restaurant just this evening. I clocked in at 5:15 PM. My last table left at 8:23 PM. I clocked out at 10:04 PM.

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    1. What time did you arrive for work? I assume you left at about 10 pm?

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  13. Hi,

    Hi everyone reading. I wanted to touch base on an issue that was quoted by Mr. Jeffers, regarding the dispute resolution process. The majority of Corporations have this in place, in writing on the wall. (laminated poster style) If one cannot simply settle a dispute in the restaurant job they are working at, what good is the dispute resolution process?

    When one challenges a manager whom they respect, it's called insubordination, now we have the ego factor, which cannot be taken out.

    I've actually taken time as a former employee to read the "Dispute Resolution Process" and I'm familiar with it, going back to 1992. I read Darden's as an employee. Let me ask? Or may I blog, most people do not clearly understand the "Dispute Resolution Process" and the resources and energy that goes into it. When I say most people, I am speaking for those that have come from other lands and are legal to work in this country. I guarentee if every Darden employee was interviewed on the spot not many people could explain it, or recall it from verbatim.

    Dispute resolution process is designed to create hostility and favor the company, it put's the employee in a really unfavorable position, the cost of transportation, letter writing, getting the facts together, the emotion and finacial drainage. Not to mention you can be blacklisted and blackballed!

    (I'll give you an example from aviation) Pilot x is flying a DC-9 aircraft, he decided he wants to fly an A-300 aircraft, he doesn't pass the course because " it's new and a foreign aircraft) He is not offered his old job back. It took nine months of phonecalls, mediation, arbituary, traveling, money, about 9,000 out of pocket, with no incidents, violations and a clean record, what a farce.

    So, Mr. Jeffers if one employee is fighting for 2,000 dollars in back pay, they don't have these resources to blow. They are simply not going to go down the avenue of Humiliation just to recover a small amount of back pay. This is just it Mr. Jeffers if you don't follow the bananna crowd, guess you aint' teamwork.

    Labor laws are in place for a reason. Just for reading purposes, I'm trying to recall, I think it's called the Jungle by Sinclair, I read it probably in the 4th grade.

    Mr. Jeffers is living in a fish bowl, the average employee at Darden is not a 4.0 Honors student who can understand textbook posters on the walls. I hope the dispute process is also brought up in court, most people cannot understand it must be simplified, for those that will use it, but I highly, HIGHLY do not suggest it. Federal court knows what they are doing.

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  14. So what kind of lawyers do you suggest instead of using the dispute process??

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  15. I know someone that worked at Red Lobster in Ohio as a waiter. Not only did they get lows wages but they had to share there tips with the bartender that was making more money then the waiters/waitresses.

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  16. I am finally happy that the people who work hard for these companies are getting what they deserve. I was a long time employee of Rare/Darden and they would ask you or threaten you if you did not do as they ask. They God complex with this company is just over the top. Not to mention that when they changed the policy and stopped paying the host their hourly rate and started having them get tipped out from the bartenders. The bartenders took a serious hit. Most of the time the servers were making more than the bartenders after that happened. It was even published in the papers about how upset the employees were, and when I had asked management about this they said they could not comment. They also said if any guests asked about it they told to say we could not comment on it. It was a huge loss of money made by the bartenders. At the location I worked they could not get anyone to work behind the bar because they would not make any money. As well as people who were on the bar would ask to work floor shifts not bar shifts.

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  17. It's so unfortunate that this still is happening.

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  18. yeah it's still happening, complete BS!!! I noticed one employee mentioned vacation pay, just curious if anybody else is getting vacation pay and/or anniversary pay. Shortly after the Darden acquisition of LH steakhouse,we heard from a former OG employee & another from Red Lobster, something about paid vacation. I thought awesome, but I along with everybody else here at LH St Aug FL, have yet to receive ONE day of paid vacation. Our "anniversary" pay isn't bad, though. Thoughts

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    1. Your "anniversary" pay IS your vacation pay.

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  19. Dont forget seasons 52, and the no one leaves until there are 3 employees after closin, but you have to clock out while you are being held captive and if you want to leave sooner help close off the clock. Yeah darden

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  20. I have worked at Red Lobster for 14 years and finally quit the beginning of 2013. I had, had enough of their down right theft of their employees. Making us tip out a certain percentage to bartenders and bussers a percentage of our sales, not tips that we actually made. I am not guaranteed a percentage of my tip. Say you actually got no tip from a table, I still had to give the bartender and the busser a percentage of my sales from that table plus pay taxes on it, so now I am in the hole for waiting on that table. We never had to tip them out except for what we wanted too, but they lower their wages and made us pay them. After being with them for 14 years, I did receive wage increases for training & bartending - only to HAVE to sign a paper taking it all away. It was either sign this" voluntarily" paper or find another job we were told. It was a slap in the face after many years. We were also made to wait around for tables, some snowy nights we were very slow. So to drive into work, spend my gas money and time to maybe get one table after hours of being there and leave with 10 bucks after working a 5 hr shift. We didn't even earn minimum wage most nights. Darden is a big corp. that is just greedy and does not care about their loyal employees. And if you were closing you had to stay there off the clock to wait on the cooks or management. Darden does not care about any of their loyal employees!!!!

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