The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Cheesecake Workers Win $4.5 M Settlement

by Brendan Coyne

Sept. 2, 2005 – Young workers in California claimed a win over a fast-growing restaurant chain yesterday, announcing that the Cheesecake Factory agreed to settle lawsuits and a number of labor complaints filed in response to working conditions at several of the company’s stores in the state.

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The $4.5 million agreement will provide workers at Cheesecake Factory restaurants throughout the state with back pay and protect them from abusive management practices, a group of employees announced yesterday.

Current and former California Cheesecake Factory workers have been battling the company through the legal and regulatory systems and grassroots efforts for more than two years, Young Workers United spokesperson Sara Flocks told the NewStandard yesterday. In addition to the suits and labor board complaints, employees of the company and their supporters held numerous rallies, wrote letters and placed calls to corporate officers, all in an effort to secure breaks mandated by state law.

Young Workers United, a 3-year-old organization that bills itself as a worker’s center and operates out of space in a building owned by the local of a restaurant workers’ union, became involved in the Cheesecake Factory employees’ case a little more than a year ago, after workers had already begun trying to force changes in company policy, according to information provided by the group. At that point, 70 workers had filed separate wage claims over the denial of breaks.

Focks said that between 2001 and 2003, wait staff and other employees were routinely denied breaks, forced to work off-the-clock or pay fellow employees $5 in order to take legally-mandated breaks.

According to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, employees filed at least 111 complaints against the company over the policy.

In February, several employees of the restaurant related personal accounts of being verbally abused, having pay illegally withheld and being denied breaks by company managers to the San Francisco Chronicle. Lawyers speaking on the company’s behalf told both papers that the claims were unfounded.

The recently agreed settlement will provide San Francisco-based current and former Cheesecake Factory employees with $1 million, according to a statement released yesterday. The other $3.5 million will be dispersed to the company’s workers throughout the state.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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