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Outback Managers Seek Bloomin' Class Cert. In FLSA Suit

Law360—Chris Villani

A putative class of Outback Steakhouse front of house managers asked a Massachusetts federal judge for conditional certification so more could join a suit claiming the chain denied them overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a motion filed Wednesday.

The suit argues the group of assistant managers, responsible for everything from seating patrons to serving food to washing dishes, have been wrongly denied overtime pay because Outback incorrectly classified them as being exempt. The classification runs afoul of the FLSA and state wage laws, the suit argues, and since all Outback restaurants are essentially the same, there are numerous others in the same situation.

"Based upon the declarations submitted by nine [managers] who worked in multiple Outback Steakhouses in eight different states, and also because it will be undeniable by Outback that the [manager] position has uniform job requirements across all its restaurants, that [managers] are classified by company policy as nonexempt, and that [managers] are not paid overtime, plaintiffs respectfully submit that notice is proper and should be judicially authorized so other [managers] who believe they may have similar claims can, without delay, be accorded their day in court," the motion states.

Carlos Chavira worked as a front of house manager for multiple Massachusetts Outback restaurants from 2011 until 2016, according to the complaint filed in January 2018. He claims he and others in his position are due unpaid overtime as well as liquidated and punitive damages and damages representing the employer’s share of Federal Insurance Contributions Act and Federal Unemployment Tax Act deductions, state unemployment insurance and any other required employment taxes.

In May, Outback filed a motion seeking to dismiss the count of Chavira's complaint styled the "class action claim," arguing the state law claim cannot go forward since the managers are "indisputably" exempt from overtime under Massachusetts state laws. The Outback chain, Bloomin' Brands Inc., said the managers were "improperly shoehorning state-law claims premised on the FLSA."

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Bloomin' Brands Inc. operates 585 Outback restaurants across the country, according to the complaint. The other named defendant, OS Restaurant Services LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bloomin' Brands.

Chavira is represented by Deirdre A. Aaron and Justin M. Swartz of Outten & Golden LLP; Gregg I. Shavitz, Logan A. Pardell and Michael J. Palitz of Shavitz Law Group PA, Christopher M. Timmel, Fran L. Rudich and Seth R. Lesser of Klafter Olsen & Lesser LLP, and Brant Casavant and Hillary A. Schwab of Fair Work PC.

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The case is Chavira v. OS Restaurant Services LLC et al., case number 1:18-cv-10029, in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.