This Tuesday, a federal judge in New York granted 42,000 TGI Friday’s employees “conditional certification” in regards to their lawsuit alleging wage theft.
The judge ruled that they sufficiently demonstrated that their allegations had merit, accusing the restaurant chain of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay the minimum wage and overtime.
In New York and Virginia, workers say they were required to arrive well before the start of business hours and work after the restaurants closed without getting minimum wage and/or overtime pay. They also accused the chain of using a centralized time-keeping system that shaved hours of their work from their records and made them work off the clock doing non-tipped tasks such as cleaning and preparing food in bulk. In Massachusetts, the lawsuit said that workers who put in more than 40 hours a week, the threshold for receiving time and a half in overtime pay, worked any additional hours off the clock. They also say waitstaff were forced to give some of their tips to host staff, who are paid the full hourly minimum wage, reducing the waitstaff’s pay to below the required minimum wage.
The workers are hoping to recover the wages they say they were denied, along with tips that were lost.
Tuesday’s win comes after the lawyer representing employees accused TGI Friday’s of trying to “pick off” plaintiffs who joined the class action lawsuit by offering more than $416,000 in settlements to 19 workers. So far 15 have accepted the offers.
Wage theft is persistent problem for people who work in the food industry. Studies show that 9 out of 10 fast food workers have been a victim of wage theft.
Employees at other chain restaurants have also filed lawsuits, including McDonald’s, sandwich store Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, Papa John’s, and Subway.