Racial discrimination claims against Darden Restaurants Inc. and its Capital Grille steakhouse chain have been dropped by a group representing restaurant workers, a spokesman for the Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining company said Wednesday.
Rich Jeffers, Darden’s director of media relations and external communications, said the discrimination allegations in a lawsuit filed in January by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United were dropped but claims of wage improprieties remained. He had said earlier that the company intended to continue defending against the claims.
A representative of the workers’ group said Friday that it plans to refile the lawsuits on a state-by-state basis.
Christopher J. Williams, an attorney with the Workers’ Law Office PC in Chicago, said in an email that “in consultation with the judge in this case and by agreement between the parties, the lawsuit filed in Chicago, which included a number of class action state-specific wage claims for Capital Grille workers (in Illinois, New York, Maryland, California and Florida) will be re-filed as separate lawsuits in each of those states."
Williams said the judge has given the workers’ group until June 1 to refile the claims, including those for discrimination.
ROC originally said it was focusing its complaints against The Capital Grille units in Chicago, New York City and the Washington, D.C., area. Darden is also parent to the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse chains.
In the initial federal class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in Chicago, ROC United had alleged “violations of the Civil Rights Act that are reflective of a corporate-wide policy of racial discrimination and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage and hour laws for wage theft against all workers.”
ROC had cited figures that Darden restaurant workers are paid as little as $2.13 per hour for tipped employees and $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees, with no paid sick days.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include information from Christopher J. Williams, an attorney with the Workers’ Law Office PC in Chicago.