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Outback says ‘we’ll break the rules’ and faces suit over forced unpaid work

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Bloomin' Brands Inc., the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, had gross receipts of more than $3 billion dollars last year is facing a federal lawsuit for profiting off the forced unpaid labor of its workers nationwide. Bloomin' CEO Elizabeth Smith has no such complaint as she was rewarded with a $20 million bonus in 2013, and according to company filings she maintains stock options worth another $50 million

Outback has claimed in public marketing materials that,

"We'll break the rules to do what it takes to make sure we deliver a dining experience that's just right each and every time."

The suit claims that in this instance, Outback broke the wrong rules: Federal labor and employment laws designed to pay employees for their work.

"It's not easy at the moment for working people to find and keep a job, and these employees deserve their pay for the work they do," said Don Springmeyer, the Wolf Rifkin Shapiro attorney who filed the suit. "Federal law does not allow gives their employees a way to fight back against the company's unlawful labor practices."

The suit claims, on behalf of plaintiffs Brooke Cardoza and Cody Hancock, along with all other similarly-situated employees of the company, that Outback Steakhouse requires unpaid time put in by employees prior to a scheduled shift (a period known as "Outback Time"), refuses paid and unpaid breaks, and fails to pay for training sessions and mandatory company meetings, and even refuses to provide required time and opportunity for nursing mothers to express milk-all violations of federal law.

Named Plaintiffs are current and/or former Outback Steakhouse employees from around the country, including Nevada, New York, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Illinois. More than 125 current and former Outback employees already have filed their consents-to-sue in the Nevada federal court case. Lawyers in the Las Vegas office of Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin LLP, filed a class action suit in Nevada federal district court against Outback Steakhouse and its parent company under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

An amended action also seeks to recapture pay, plus appropriate damages, for all Plaintiffs and the many thousands of similarly situated employees in the FLSA collective action and various state-law class actions as a result of Defendants' failure to pay wages for off-the-clock work required by Outback.

"This lawsuit seeks to vindicate the simple proposition that employees should be paid for their work," said Don Springmeyer, the Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin attorney who filed the suit. "Outback Steakhouses run on the labor of tens of thousands of minimum-wage employees, and it is outrageous that a multi-billion-dollar corporation further squeezes those hard working people out of their lawfully-earned wages."

Bloomin' Brands, Inc. owns and operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Roy's Restaurant, and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and employs nearly 100,000 hourly employees at more than 1,400 restaurants nationwide. The lawsuit seeks back pay and penalties on behalf of a nationwide class of Outback Steakhouse and Bloomin' Brands employees.

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