Several Olive Garden employees have come forward to file charges of race- and gender-based discrimination against Darden Restaurants, Inc, PEOPLE reports. The employees, who self-identified as Black or African-American in official documents, described their experiences working at the Times Square Olive Garden location in New York City.
The charges were filed at the New York’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office, and five employees shared their experiences, according to information obtained by Delish. Adam Jones, Brooklynn Bruner, Chanta Hunter, Luna St Furcy, and Kevin Absolam said they experienced discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation in the work place. That discrimination affected aspects of their job like receiving proper tips, getting breaks throughout the day, and being assigned more favorable tables, they allege.
Darden has a policy of paying tipped workers a sub-minimum wage, and the employees who came forward said the alleged favoritism showed toward non-Black and non-LGBTQ+ workers led to differences in their financial compensations from the job. The charges also claim there were disparities in treatment of employees when the restaurant reopened in September 2020 after closing down due to COVID-19 restrictions. It is alleged that non-Black servers were given preferential treatment and hours after the reopening.
In a statement to Delish, a Darden spokesperson denied the charges, calling them "baseless." Their full supplied statement can be found below:
We believe these allegations are baseless. Darden is a values-based company built on a culture of integrity and fairness, respect and caring, and a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.
We have an industry-leading team member experience. Across our brands, tipped team members earn, on average, more than $20 per hour. We have one of the lowest hourly turnover rates in the industry—50% better than the industry average. We provide tremendous opportunities for advancement. We promote nearly 1,000 team members a year into management; more than half of our restaurant managers come from our hourly ranks; and more than 90% of our restaurant general managers, as well as our Directors of Operations, are promoted from within.
Moreover, since the pandemic began, Darden has invested more than $100 million in our team members, including permanent paid sick leave for all hourly team members and an emergency pay program that provides pay for our hourly team members who cannot work when our dining rooms are closed.
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