Roughly 520 current and former Taco Bell employees at locations across Michigan have signed on to a collective action lawsuit against a regional franchisee alleging wage theft, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The workers claim that Brighton-based franchise company Sundance, which owns more than 150 Taco Bells across several states, illegally doctored employees hours in order to avoid paying overtime between 2013 and now.
“Sundance engages in a practice in which it ‘shifts’ hours that an employee works during one week over to the following week, so that an employee’s time records do not demonstrate that the employee worked over 40 hours in a given work week,” according to the complaint. “Sundance maintains a white board in its office on which it keeps track of its employees’ ‘shifted hours’ from week to week.”
In some cases, the plaintiffs allege that they “simply were not paid at all for their ‘shifted over’ hours” or were “instructed to clock out, and continue working after doing so, in order for each store to maintain its Sundance-imposed labor metrics.” Employees with “manager” titles at some locations claim that they were expected to work until 3 a.m. closing. They would then sleep at the store for three hours in order to be present for their scheduled 6 a.m. opening shifts.
The complaint was originally filed by four employees in October 2016 and was recently updated to include respondents who opted into the lawsuit through a mailing about the collective action lawsuit.
Attorneys representing Sundance have denied the claims made by employees. “Because they are responsible for the operations of their restaurants, we cannot comment on this specific litigation, but we do expect that all of our franchisees comply with all applicable laws, including wage and hour requirements,” Taco Bell’s corporate branch wrote in a statement to the Free Press.
The employees represented in the lawsuit are seeking unpaid wages as well as damages and attorneys fees. The case is expected to go to trial in 2019.