More workers may join Darden lawsuit

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By Sandra Pedicini
July 21, 2013

Up to 300,000 current and former Darden Restaurants employees will be invited to join a lawsuit filed against the company last year alleging it underpaid servers.

A federal judge earlier this month granted what’s called “conditional certification of a nationwide class” in the lawsuit, filed last year in Miami. Orlando-based Darden is being required to provide names and addresses of people who worked as servers and bartenders between Sept. 6, 2009, and Sept. 6, 2012, for several of its brands, including Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse. Those people will be notified they have the right to join the lawsuit, said David Lichter, an attorney for the employees.

“It will be some fraction of that” 300,000 who will actually opt to join, Lichter said.

Darden said in an email it is relatively easy to get the initial certification that the plaintiffs’ attorneys received. Darden is pursuing decertification, which if granted means that those employees invited to join the lawsuit would be dismissed from it. They could pursue claims on their own, though.

“We follow the law and believe these allegations are baseless and not at all reflective of how we operate our business,” Darden said in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit, which currently has more than 50 plaintiffs, accuses Darden of forcing employees to work off the clock.

Sonny’s updates image
Winter Park-based Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q is updating its image – starting with a new name. The company is now simply Sonny’s BBQ.

It also will start using a new logo, which boasts “local pitmasters since ’68.” The company said its restaurants will start getting new décor, too.

New restaurants coming to The Grove
Several new restaurants will open in the second phase of Tavistock Development Co.’s expansion ofThe Grove at Isleworth. Dexter’s, Jeremiah’s Italian Ice and BurgerFi will all open at the center, which will have 200,000 square feet when completed.

Tijuana Flats introduces Braille menus
Tijuana Flats has added Braille menus at its 93 restaurants.

The Maitland-based restaurant chain said the menus came about after a suggestion from employees atSocial Ventures in Jacksonville, which creates jobs for people with disabilities. Some of its employees are blind.

Darden expands in Latin America
Darden Restaurants recently signed agreements to operate more restaurants in Latin America.

Grupo Piramide will develop Darden’s Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Dosil S.A. will develop the concepts in Peru. Both of the new franchisees already operate other American casual-dining and quick-service restaurants.

With these new agreements, Darden will have operations in 12 markets throughout Latin America. Darden recently signed a deal with International Meal Company, which will operate Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse in Brazil, Colombia, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Darden has also had franchisees in Mexico and Puerto Rico for some time.

Grupo Piramide operates American brands such as Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s. It has a total of 662 restaurants and more than 19,000 employees.

Dosil S.A. runs Chili’s, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King. It has a total of 302 restaurants and 11,000 employees.