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Mexican food franchise employees allege wage thefts

| Feb 2, 2018 | Business Law |

The Mexican fast-food franchise famous for being open until the wee hours of the morning, Taco Bell, has been hit with a lawsuit in Michigan. Over 500 employees of the franchise claim they never received overtime they were due.

The local franchise is owned by a company called Sundance, out of Brighton, and has over 150 of the restaurants. They’re accused of fixing their books to skimp on employee overtime pay from 2013 on.

Overtime pay is a legal right that employees have when they’re obligated to work more than 40 hours per week. By law, employees have to be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for each additional hour.

The lawsuit alleges that the company engaged in a practice known as “shifting,” where managers would take the hours an employee worked over the 40-hour limit and move them on the records to show that they were actually earned in the following week. That way, the company could avoid paying overtime.

Other times, the plaintiffs claim that they just weren’t paid for overtime. The company would force employees to keep working off the clock. In addition, employees designated as managers were obligated to stay until 3 AM to close the stores and open again at 6 AM. To meet the demands placed on them, those employees would actually grab naps on the restaurants’ floors.

The claim originally started with just four employees. It quickly ballooned to include the rest after a mailer making inquiries for a class-action suit went out.

Attorneys for the company have denied all the allegations. The company claims it had no way of knowing what went on in individual stores but that it never sanctioned any illegal wage withholding. Employees, however, claim that the company kept a whiteboard so that it could keep better track of shifted hours and avoid overtime payments.

Cases like this illustrate how easily some companies can bully their employees into compliance — at least for a while. When employees finally stand up for their rights, employment law violations can backfire in a very big and public fashion and end up costing the company not only the overtime pay, but damages and legal fees as well.

Source: detroit.eater.com, “Taco Bell Employees File Lawsuit Against Michigan Franchisee for Alleged Wage Theft,” Brenna Houck, Jan. 17, 2018

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