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TGI Friday’s Settles With 14 In Certified FLSA Class

Law360—Jessica Corso

TGI Friday’s Inc. has agreed to settle the claims of 14 members of a Fair Labor Standards Act class of tipped workers who say there were cheated on wages for side work they performed, according to an agreement entered into the court record Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres signed off on all 14 settlements, which range from $2,500 to $82,000, that TGI Friday's parent company Carlson Restaurants Inc. agreed to pay on Friday.

The agreement comes on the back of Torres certifying a nationwide class of the restaurant chain’s workers in January after allegations that servers, bartenders and hosts are not being paid minimum wage for hours spent cleaning, restocking and prepping food.

Friday’s had argued, in opposing the certification, that the employees couldn’t demonstrate sufficient similarity among the thousands of tipped workers the class would encompass. But Torres disagreed, saying Carlson had sufficient control over its chains’ wage policy to justify the certifying the class.

“This evidence, coupled with the evidence of defendant’s centralized control over TGI Friday’s restaurants nationwide, suffices to meet the minimal burden for conditional certification,” the judge wrote.

She also rejected claims brought by Friday’s that it had policies in place to ensure that it didn’t violate the FLSA, saying that was not ground to deny certification.

“At this stage, plaintiffs ‘need only to show evidence of a de facto policy which, in practice, resulted in a pattern of FLSA violations,’ ” she said.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Justin M. Swartz and Sally J. Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP and Joseph A. Fitapelli, Brian S. Schaffer and Frank J. Mazzaferro of Fitapelli & Schaffer LLP.

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The case is Jamel Flood et al. v. Carlson Restaurants Inc. et al., case number 1:14-cv-02740, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.