*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 7.16.12  ***

Media Contact:
Meghana Reddy, 314-749-1785; meghana@rocunited.org

Capital Grille Workers Announce Partnership with MALDEF, Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis, P.C., and Workers’ Law Office; File Wage Theft, Discrimination Claims Against Darden Restaurant Group in Regional Federal Courts

– Growing Litigation Unwieldy for Single Lawsuit, Workers’ Claims Severed, Filed in Separate Federal Lawsuits –

Today, Capital Grille workers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago partnered up with local law firms to file wage theft and discrimination claims against Darden Restaurants, owner of Capital Grille, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden, in three regional US District Courts across the country. The litigation is part of the campaign for “Dignity at Darden,” a national movement led by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, demanding the world’s largest full service restaurant group address the claims of their employees, ranging from legal violations such as wage theft and discrimination to abuses such as low wages and having to work while sick.

These workers are part of a group of more than 95 Darden workers that have come forward with complaints of exploitation, ranging from wage theft to discrimination to poverty wages to being seriously overworked to having to work while sick.

“We are proud to announce our partnerships with these skilled law firms from across the country who are committed to protecting the rights of workers,” stated Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director of ROC United, “We continually have Darden workers coming forward, joining our on-the-ground campaigns or contacting our offices from cities all over the country, sharing their stories of abuse and their desire to see change at their workplace. This filing represents the beginning of a growing movement.“

Julian Hernandez, a class representative and ROC-LA member, said, “I came forward because my manager did not let me take breaks, and I was denied the pay that I had worked hard to earn. I joined the Dignity at Darden Campaign to ensure that workers get the respect they deserve.”

“Before, Capital Grille was a great place to work but ever since Darden Restaurants took it over, its become really bad,” said Alex Pena, ROC NY member and cook at Capital Grille in NYC, “They cut our hours and make one person do the work of three – we are running as fast as we can all day. Its impossible to keep working like this.”

Originally filed in Chicago in Federal District Court with state class claims for New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Maryland, and Chicago, the lawsuit was severed into five separate jurisdictions after the judge and parties agreed that this was the best course of action due to the growing size and complexity of the various state claims. Today, the lawsuits were re-filed in regional US District Courts in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago (Maryland & Miami are currently pending), so that discrimination and wage & hour claims based on state law can be given a thorough hearing. Legal organizations from across the country have joined the campaign to help handle this complicated litigation – in Los Angeles, Victor Viramontes from MALDEF; in New York City, Dan Clifton and Elaine Smith from Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis, P.C.; and in Chicago, Chris Williams from Workers’ Law Office. To view all three of the full complaints filed today, visit http://www.dignityatdarden.org/darden-complaint.html. Discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York City, Chicago, Maryland, and Miami are still pending.

The “Dignity at Darden” campaign was originally launched in November of this year by Capital Grille workers and ROC United in Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago. In a few short months, the campaign has expanded to include workers in Miami and Los Angeles. Darden Restaurants, which made over half a billion dollars in profits last year and paid its CEO, Clarence Otis, over $8.5 million in compensation, is the world’s largest full service restaurant group and is a powerful force in setting industry standards.

The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is a national restaurant workers’ organization seeking improved working conditions in the restaurant industry. Founded initially after 9/11 by workers displaced from the World Trade Center, ROC has grown into a national restaurant workers’ organization with 10,o00 members in 19 cities nationwide.