Darden Lawsuit

Dishwasher Workers Receive Class Action Lawsuit Over Dishwasher Job Planting

The Darden Restaurant chain has recently settled a lawsuit brought against them by a Florida resident, bringing to an end a long standing dispute over the employment practices at Darden. In August of 2021, Jeffrey Strodey hired David Darling to serve as the Darden director of food safety. According to court documents and depositions, Darling refused to implement certain aspects of the company’s current mandatory food-handling policy and, in the process, injured several employees while trying to implement changes. According to the lawsuit, Darling caused injury to three employees, as a direct result of his refusal to implement mandatory hand washing sinks at Darden restaurants.

The suit ultimately was settled in September. An agreement was reached for the payment of damages to the named plaintiffs, together with a payment of interest and attorney fees.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, however, the Darden Restaurant chain is still listed as a defendant on the Darden web site.

In addition, Darden is also named as a defendant in multiple e-mails sent to the class action customers, which were obtained by a search of the public domain. Additionally, Darden is currently the target of a class action suit that was filed in the Southern District of New York and is seeking compensation for consumers who purchased Darden stock from its restaurant prior to the settlement of the Darden lawsuit.

On September 7, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, allowing the class action suit to proceed against Darden, Inc.

The court found that despite the company’s efforts to comply with the requirements of the mandatory part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that requires employers to provide certain information regarding their manufacturing processes to their employees and to ensure those procedures are consistent with the FLSA, Darden did not modify its policies to appropriately conform with the Act. The court further found that there was no evidence that Darden’s policies were reasonably designed to prevent discrimination, and that the claims of disparate treatment and employer retaliation were not valid. The court denied class certification to the plaintiffs, but asked the parties to submit supplemental documents by Nov. 3.

A few weeks later, on September 9, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York again denied the class action certification, finding that Darden had properly consented to and understood the FLSA’s regulations regarding employer retaliation and discrimination.

The court cited Darden’s efforts to comply with the Act in light of its continuing expansion into higher-end restaurants. Also cited was Darden’s acknowledgment that it did not intend to engage in any discriminatory actions or conduct. The court emphasized that it would not resolve the merits of the case as it did not have jurisdiction to allow the suit to proceed against Darden because it was not a private employer.

On September 15, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a summary judgment in support of the plaintiff’s complaint.

The court found that there was a likelihood of success on the merits of the complaint because there were no genuine issues of material fact. Therefore, the case was dismissed. This was the third loss for the plaintiffs in the three year long Darden v. Wild Oats II case.

The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the full federal court, and on September 16, the court granted the motion to dismiss.

According to the court, the plaintiffs failed to establish a genuine issue of fact and the District Court properly admitted the record as true. Thus, the court declined to grant class certification to the 2021 lawsuit filed by the Teamsters Union against Darden and its parent corporation, the poultry corporation.

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