Lawsuit alleges Olive Backyard guardian’s tipping coverage causes racial discrimination, sexual harassment in newest push towards tipped minimal wage

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Signage outdoors an Olive Backyard restaurant in Thornton, Colorado, on Friday, March 19, 2021.

Chet Unusual | Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Advocacy group One Honest Wage is suing Olive Backyard guardian Darden Restaurants, alleging the corporate’s tipping coverage encourages sexual harassment and racial discrimination towards its waitstaff.

The grievance, which was filed Thursday in California federal court docket, is the newest salvo within the battle towards the tipped minimal wage. In 43 states, employers will pay their employees as little as $2.13 an hour so long as that hourly wage and ideas add as much as the locality’s pay flooring. In any other case, the employer has to make up the distinction.

The tipped minimal wage was final raised in 1991, however Democrats tried to do away with it earlier this 12 months as a part of their plan to boost the federal minimal wage. The modification so as to add a rise to the federal pay flooring to the newest Covid-19 aid invoice did not cross the Senate, however Democrats will seemingly revisit the problem once more throughout President Joe Biden’s four-year time period. Darden was among the many restaurant firms that vocally opposed eliminating the tipped wage.

Within the lawsuit, One Honest Wage says that Darden’s tipping coverage causes its workers who’re individuals of coloration to earn lower than White workers. A ballot of Darden employees carried out by the advocacy group discovered that servers who’re individuals of coloration made 18% much less in ideas per hour than White servers. The lawsuit additionally alleges that Darden’s coverage offers managers the flexibility to affect servers’ wages as a result of they’ll assign servers to shifts or seating sections that are inclined to lead to decrease ideas.

The grievance additionally alleges that servers who’re paid lower than the minimal wage expertise extra sexual harassment than waitstaff who work in localities that require Darden to pay them the minimal wage.

“The money wage coverage is the direct trigger, or at the least a motivating trigger, of this disparate influence,” the grievance mentioned.

Managers might inform their servers to decorate extra suggestively to earn increased ideas and switch a blind eye to sexual harassment with the intention to preserve the shopper pleased, in line with the lawsuit.

The advocacy group suggests a number of options that would assist, together with pooling ideas, including a regular service cost to all payments or offering requirements to clients that might reduce the function of race in tipping selections. Darden’s present company coverage allegedly doesn’t permit managers to make use of completely different tipping programs.

One Honest Wage is the one plaintiff named within the grievance. The group argues that it has the standing to sue Darden as a result of it has needed to divert extra money and time to serving to the corporate’s employees, together with paying out $175,000 in monetary help to workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One Honest Wage filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Alternative Fee in September however requested that the company dismiss the cost in March. The EEOC issued the group with a proper to sue discover, which provides it 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court docket.

One Honest Wage is asking the court docket to declare that tipping insurance policies like Darden’s are unlawful and violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The plaintiff can also be searching for an injunction towards Darden from sustaining these insurance policies and employment practices.

Darden didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark from CNBC.

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