Olive Garden employees at the chain’s flagship Times Square restaurant location are accusing its owner of “racial and gender-based discrimination.”
Four workers at the Darden-owned chain claimed they were receiving lower pay and tips due to their sexual orientation or race compared to their White heterosexual co-workers, according to a complaint filed on Tuesday with New York City’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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The suit alleges “race discrimination” and a “hostile work environment.” One employee who identifies as a “bisexual server” alleges she/they and other female servers making the sub-minimum wage are regularly exposed to sexual harassment from customers due to their reliance on tips.
The lawsuit also alleges “preferential treatment of non-LGBTQ” servers. Another employee, a cook, claimed in the suit a co-worker pulled a knife on him and called him a racial slur. The employees also claim in the suit that non-Black servers are allegedly given busier shifts, allowing them to profit more.
“We believe these allegations are baseless,” Darden told Fox News in a statement Wednesday. “Darden is a values-based company built on a culture of integrity and fairness, respect and caring, and a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
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Darden, which also owns The Captial Grille, said tipped team members earn “more than $20 per hour” on average. The company also said it has invested more than $100 million in funding to benefit its workers this year, “including permanent paid sick leave for all hourly team members and an emergency pay program that provides pay for our hourly team members who cannot work when our dining rooms are closed.”