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Taco Bell Franchisee Avoids Continued Litigation and Settles Overtime Class Action

Jobs in fast food chains have earned a reputation for being some of the least desirable jobs on the market. They can often be thankless jobs that pay minimum wage and the situation only gets worse if the employees are made to work overtime without proper compensation.

Unfortunately, certain unscrupulous fast food chain restaurants (or at least their franchise owners) have also earned a reputation for avoiding paying their employees overtime. The allegations include everything from misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime to tampering with time cards.

According to a recent class action wage and hour lawsuit against Bravo Foods LLC, a Taco Bell franchise owner, the company allegedly made changes and/or deletions to its workers’ time records in order to avoid paying them overtime.

Bravo Foods owns Taco Bell restaurants in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Orlando, Florida. The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. District Court of Florida by Cory Wise, a former employee who worked at one of the Taco Bell locations in Orlando from August 2014 until April 2015.

Wise was hired as an hourly, non-exempt employee, yet he alleges he has never been paid for the hours of overtime he alleges he was regularly required to work. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), overtime is defined as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. The FLSA requires all non-exempt workers to be paid one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime they spend working.

Wise alleges he and other non-exempt employees working at Taco Bell worked more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week on a regular basis, yet they were allegedly never paid for the extra time they spent working. Wise alleges Bravo Foods illegally tampered with workers’ time cards in order to give the impression they worked fewer hours than they really had.

Bravo Foods and the class of plaintiffs reached a settlement outside of court. Large class actions like this usually settle outside of court because it’s easier and more cost effective for both parties than pursuing the legal dispute all the way through the courts.

The defendant gets to save face by avoiding conviction and pay less than they would if a jury ruled against them. Even when the defendant is certain they did nothing wrong, a settlement is usually still cheaper than covering all the legal bills of a long and costly trial.

The plaintiffs likewise benefit from settling outside of court because juries can be unpredictable. Even if the plaintiffs are certain they are in the right, they can never be certain that a jury will agree with them. By settling, the plaintiffs get the assurance of some money, rather than the uncertainty of a larger payout later on down the line.

But before a settlement can be finalized, it must be approved by a judge, and the settlement reached between Taco Bell and the class of plaintiffs has yet to be approved. Although the parties submitted a motion for the court to approve their settlement, they failed to include the actual terms of the settlement with the motion. They offered to email it to the judge, and although there may come a time when all court motions are filed electronically, for now email keeps the document improperly out of the public record. The judge therefore rejected their motion to approve the settlement and required them to properly submit the terms of their settlement agreement.

The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Hilton, W, Marriott, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, Staybridge Suites, Best Western, HomeTown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Applebees, Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for mis-classifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Sugar Grove and Plainfield. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Schaumburg and Evanston overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.