After the Wal-Mart v. Dukes class action suit was shot down by the Supreme Court in June 2011, there were founded concerns that class actions based on retail or customer service employees’ policies were in peril. On Friday, an Illinois federal judge validated a class of plaintiffs, consisting of tipped employees of the Applebee’s franchise, allowing them to bring suit against their employer for labor law violations. This decision relied on the fact that their claims of violations of law could be objectively reviewed due to uniform policies at the different locations, unlike the Dukes decision which required the plaintiffs to prove a common policy of discrimination, which ultimately failed.
Due to the unique employment situation for tipped employees, they are especially vulnerable to abuse by managers and owners. This is a useful precedent for the large group of tipped bartenders and servers for the Green Turtle franchise, including the Chinatown location, an official sponsor of the Washington Capitals. This Green Turtle suit, which began in September of 2010, includes similar claims of violations against the Fair Labor Standards Act alleging skimming of the tip pool for managers and other non-tipped employees as well as to make up for cash register shortages and forcing tipped employees to perform nontipped duties.
The outcomes of these class actions against large franchise restaurants will set a precedent and act as a deterrent to other businesses seeking to take advantage of susceptible tipped workers making $2.13 per hour, less than a third of the federal minimum wage.
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