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Plaintiffs in Texas Employment Lawsuit Settle “Souper” Wage Dispute

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Carrolton, TXA nationally recognized and well-known restaurant chain with roots in Texas has been hit with a Texas Employment class-action lawsuit alleging that tipped workers have been underpaid, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and other statutes.

Most people know TGI Friday’s as a venerable and highly popular brand. However, what is not well-known are alleged Texas Labor Law issues surrounding how and when servers and other employees earning low wages but expected to make up the difference through tips, are paid.

TGI Friday’s Inc., Carlson Restaurants Inc., and Carlson Restaurants Worldwide Inc. are headquartered in Carrolton, Texas. According to PR Newswire (4/21/14), the Texas labor and employment lawsuit was filed by four former workers at TGI Friday’s on behalf of current and former servers, bartenders, bussers and various other hosts and tipped workers.

According to the lawsuit, employees are required to arrive to work well ahead of when they actually begin to wait on customers. It is also alleged that workers are required to stay on site after the restaurant closes. There are also allegations of off-the-clock work facilitated through a systematic “shaving” of hours from employee time cards and records.

Plaintiffs allege that tipped employees are also called upon to perform “side work” involving cleaning, restocking, food preparation in bulk and other undertakings historically performed by back-of-house workers who earn minimum wage at least. When servers and other tipped personnel perform such duties, they are not in a position to earn tips and thus are effectively working below minimum wage, or so it is alleged.

The lawsuit was actually filed in New York but involves prospective class plaintiffs from Texas and elsewhere. The case is Jamel Flood, et al., v. Carlson Restaurants, Inc., et al., US District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 14-CV-2740.

Meanwhile, a similar lawsuit against another defendant was recently settled in Texas federal court. The plaintiff in that Texas labor and employment lawsuit, Matthew Scott, alleged that the operator of the Souper Salad chain required tipped employees to undertake various tasks “for a large portion of the day” that was not tip-producing - and thus robbing employees of a significant portion of their pay, or so it was alleged.

In so doing, tipped workers were performing work such as “cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, cleaning and stocking serving areas; sorting bins of silverware and taking them out; preparing the restaurant to open and close; and general cleaning before and after the restaurant was open,” according to the amended complaint filed in February. Thus, the effective rate of pay was $2.13 per hour, or so it was alleged - well below the minimum standard, and in violation of FLSA, and Texas labor and employment law.

Souper Salad parent LNC Ventures LLC agreed to settle. The defendant acquired the chain from previous owner SSI Group Holding Corp. after the latter filed for bankruptcy in September 2011. LNC picked up the Souper Salad chain for about $4 million, according to reports.

The Texas lawsuit is Scott v. LNC Ventures LLC, case number 4:13-cv-00685, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

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