Two Chicago area women have dished out a potential wage-and-hour class action lawsuit against restaurant chain TGI Friday’s, alleging their former employer maintained a vacation pay policy that violated Illinois law, and did not properly pay employees who quit or were fired for the vacation time they had accumulated while they worked at the restaurants.
On Feb. 29, plaintiffs Gabrielle Williams, who worked at a TGI Friday’s restaurant in Chicago from June 2010 - September 2012, and Tonya O’Donovan, who worked at the chain’s Tinley Park restaurant from January 2014 – February 2015, filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court on their behalf, and on behalf of a class of other potential plaintiffs, which the complaint estimated could number in the thousands.
The complaint was filed for the plaintiffs by attorneys with the firm of Werman Salas P.C., of Chicago.
According to the complaint, during the time Williams and O’Donovan worked for Friday’s, the restaurant chain maintained a vacation time policy which did not allow employees to receive vacation benefits unless they worked “1,300 hours in their anniversary year of employment,” a figure which equates to an average of 25 hours worked per week during a 12-month period beginning with the anniversary date of employment.
The complaint said the policy meant, in practice, employees who worked even just slightly less than the yearly 1,300-hours threshold during that 12-month period would not receive payment with their final wages for accrued vacation time should they leave their job.
Both Williams and O’Donovan said they did not receive payment for vacation hours they had earned under TGI Friday’s vacation time program when they stopped working for the restaurant chain.
However, the complaint noted Friday’s at some point in 2015 appeared to have realized its vacation time policies violated Illinois law, because it purportedly issued a number of former employees checks expressly for the vacation time for which they were never compensated. O’Donovan, for instance, said she received a check on Dec. 16, 2015, for $303, which was payment for about 37 hours of vacation time. However, the complaint said even this payment was not enough to sidestep legal action, because that payment should have been included with her final paycheck.
The complaint has asked the court to certify two classes of plaintiffs: people who worked for TGI Friday’s restaurants in Illinois from 2006-2015, who, like Williams, never received any payment for their unused vacation time; and another class of former Friday’s workers who, like O’Donovan, received payment long after their employment at Friday’s had ended.
The complaint alleged TGI Friday’s policy violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, which, the complaint said, requires vacation time to be “earned proportionately as labor is rendered, and that accrued vacation is part of an employee’s wages and thus cannot be forfeited.”
The complaint asked the court to award all plaintiffs and class members “all vacation pay due and owing,” as well as unspecified “additional damages” and attorney fees.