NY group sues Olive Garden owner over subminimum wage, blames worker shortage on low pay

Local News

MANHATTAN, N.Y. – With millions of job openings across the country but not enough employees to fill them, restaurant workers claim there isn’t a shortage of workers. Instead, they argue, employers are coming up short in pay and workers are fighting back because of it.

Hannah Shaber, the lead organizer in New York for One Fair Wage, walked into the Olive Garden in Times Square on Monday to personally serve a lawsuit.

The suit names Darden Restaurants – the parent company of Olive Garden – and the advocates allege the company’s subminimum wage policy is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

“The subminimum wage is a legacy of slavery,” Shaber said. “It started because people did not want to pay newly freed slaves a wage, so they introduced tipping which put the responsibility on the consumer to pay their wage.”

They also claim it promotes sexual harassment and racial inequity.

One Fair Wage demanded the company provide a $15 per hour wage plus tips.

A report from the organization shows that half of New York restaurant workers are leaving their jobs because of the pandemic and 90% are leaving due to low wages and tips.

In 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the subminimum wage was ending in New York State for most service workers, from nail salon employees to valets – but not the restaurant industry.

“…which is the majority of tipped workers, so he left out the biggest group of people that really needed it,” Shaber said.

While One Fair Wage waits to hear back from Darden Restaurants about the lawsuit, they’re putting pressure on Cuomo to end the subminimum wage for restaurant workers by Labor Day.

Darden Restaurants did not immediately return PIX11’s request for comment on the lawsuit.

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