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NextGen Magazine


Olive Garden Parent Sued; Plaintiffs Say Tipping Policy Encourages Harassment, Discrimination

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Apr 15, 2021

A minimum wage advocacy group has sued Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and other chains, saying that its tipping policy, and tipping in general, encourages discrimination and harassment, CNBC reported. The crux of the argument in the case, brought by the organization One Fair Wage in a federal court in California, is that restaurants in most states are allowed to pay servers below minimum wage due to the expectation that the waitstaff will make up the difference in tips, and if they don't, then the employer will make up the difference.

But the group said that this policy is racially discriminatory, because, on average, white servers make about 18 percent more in tips than people of color and, furthermore, managers can influence servers' wages by assigning them shifts with lower tips, such as that space right after the lunch rush ends but before the dinner rush begins. One Fair Wage also said that, in general, servers who work for below minimum wage tend to experience more sexual harassment than in places where they are paid minimum wage or above. This can encompass not only actions by managers but also the blind eye they can turn when patrons harass the servers.

While One Fair Wage is suing only Darden Restaurants, its arguments can theoretically apply to every eatery where servers are paid below minimum wage. The group chose to sue Darden  because it has paid out over $175,000 in financial assistance to Darden employees; this is also why, the group argues, it has standing to sue Darden.