The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)
Protects Restaurant Employees from Unfair Employment Practices
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, and sets standards in employment practices for employees in the public and private sector. Employers subject to FLSA jurisdiction are required to follow the regulations set by the FLSA.
What does the FLSA prohibit?
- The FLSA makes it illegal for employers to require their employees to take job-related training or testing without pay.
- The FLSA makes it illegal to require workers to perform work or attend meetings before clocking in, or after clocking out.
- The FLSA also makes it illegal for employers to take the tip credit (paying less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour) while requiring workers to perform excessive non-tipped tasks.
- Under the FLSA, as interpreted by the Department of Labor (the “DOL”), employers may not take the tip credit for time the employee is engaged in a non-tipped job; instead employers must pay the minimum wage if the employee spends excessive time on tasks that do not generate tips. The DOL has formalized this concept under the “Dual Jobs” regulation.
The FLSA Protects Claimants from Employer Retaliation
The FLSA makes it illegal for an employer to take any negative employment action against a current or former employee who sues under the FLSA, opts-in to an FLSA collective class action lawsuit, or in any way demands wages required under the FLSA. Employers thus are prohibited from firing or discriminating against FLSA claimants or witnesses. If the employer violates this law, you have the right to sue for reinstatement, all wages lost due to the retaliation, and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
Damages for FLSA Violations
Under the FLSA, claimants typically are entitled to their actual damages consisting of lost wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, resulting in total damages of 2 times the amounts that the claimant was underpaid.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill - Alleged Violations of FLSA
The lawsuit against Carrabba’s alleges that bartenders and servers were required to take extensive initial training and testing through Bloomin’ Brands’ online training website, known as BBI University, and to undergo periodic additional online training and testing relating to such matters as the contents of the Carrabba’s Italian Grill restaurants’ menu, knowledge of menu changes, security, alcohol awareness, on-site chemicals, and food safety. The lawsuit alleges that bartenders and servers were required to complete such training and testing without pay.
The lawsuit also alleges that Carrabba’s violated the FLSA by requiring servers and bartenders to perform excessive non-tip-producing side work while being paid sub-minimum wage (as low as $2.13 per hour). These non-tipped tasks included:
- Setting-up the dining room areas
- Brewing beverages
- Cutting lemons
- Filling ice bins
- Baking bread
- Restocking and cleaning the salad bar
- Polishing and stocking glassware
- Helping pack to-go orders
- Restocking salt/pepper and sugar caddies
- Pulling away tables to clean under booths
- Cleaning the server alley
- Sweeping floors
- Rolling silverware
- Cleaning floor mats
- Wiping wood with murphy’s oil or soap
Under the FLSA, employers are permitted to pay this sub-minimum wage so long as the employees are performing tasks that produce tips (the tips make up for the difference between the $2.13 and the applicable minimum wage). Employers cannot, however, assign these employees such non-tipped tasks for excessive amounts of time.
If you are an employee or former employee of Carrabba’s, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, or Bonefish Grill (all owned by Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.), talk to us about recovering unpaid or underpaid wages.
To learn more, contact us at (888) 833-2305.