If you work for a restaurant—whether it’s a McDonald’s or the fanciest bistro in town—you have employment rights. As an employee, if your rights have been violated while working for a restaurant, then legally protecting those rights can be an intimidating proposition. In fact, most employees have no idea that their rights have been violated—and even if they do—pursuing legal remedies may seem daunting. Over the years, most restaurant workers whose rights have been violated have not pursued their legal options, usually because they believe they will not be able to prove the violations.

Workers can win settlements against large restaurant companies

We’ve gathered a small sample of multi-million dollar lawsuits and settlements that restaurant corporations have paid out to unfairly treated employees:

Earlier in 2021, the national Mexican food chain Chipotle—with so many California employees—agreed to settle for $15 million. The lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged that Chipotle did not pay the necessary overtime to its employees. The chain misclassified certain workers as salaried employees, exempting them from overtime wages.

In a 2020 settlement, fast food giant Del Taco agreed to pay $1.25 million that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will allocate among former employees (they remain anonymous). The settlement requires the company to overhaul their employees’ training program regarding their rights and obligations under Title VII (prohibits workplace discrimination).

In 2016, McDonald’s settled a $3.75 million lawsuit claiming it had violated the rightsof about 800 California restaurant workers.

In 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of every single server and bartender who worked at the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday. The lawsuit alleged that Ruby Tuesday violated labor law by paying servers and bartenders and other restaurant staff below the minimum wage.

In 2014, Outback Steakhouse’s parent company was sued in a wage and hour lawsuit. The legal action alleged that employees were asked to donate (as in work for free) hours to the company. Eventually, Outback Steakhouse agreed to settle for $3 million. In an earlier 2009 lawsuit, Outback Steakhouse agreed to pay more than $19 million in a sex discrimination lawsuit.

Q: Can a single employee sue a restaurant? A: Yes.

Let’s examine one example: a restaurant employee might be owed money after being fired or after they quit. While there are some exceptions, if the employee worked more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week, then the restaurant must pay the employee what’s termed a “time-and-a-half” overtime rate.

If the restaurant did not pay the employee overtime, then there’s a good chance the employee is owed money. In fact, there are many reasons a fired restaurant employee may be owed money.

Keep in mind: no matter how large and seemingly powerful your employer appears, you can sue and win. If you’re a California employee, and your employee rights have been violated, don’t hesitate to contact an employment attorney—one that has the expertise and experience protecting restaurant workers’ rights.


Because California is an “at-will” employment state (employers are free to terminate employees at any time) employees think that they have no rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Learn more about your employee rights. Contact us today.

Lawyers for Employee and Consumer Rights (LFECR) is a leading California employment law firm. With more than forty remote attorneys, LFECR is prepared to work on behalf of their clients anywhere in California.

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