Parent company of Olive Garden violates the Civil Rights Act with its tipping policies, activists say

Activists looking to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped employees — a practice that they say keeps workers in poverty, encourages sexual harassment and leads to racial discrimination — are taking a new approach in their campaign to end the two-tiered wage system in America: They’re arguing the lower tipped wage, sometimes as little as $2.13 an hour, violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The first test of this strategy arrived Tuesday. One Fair Wage, a national worker-advocacy group, filed a federal complaint against Darden Restaurants Inc., one of the largest hospitality groups in the country, alleging that the company’s practice of paying tipped workers a sub-minimum wage causes them to suffer more sexual harassment than non-tipped workers and leads employees of color to earn less in tips than their White co-workers. The practice, the group argues, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”

Rich Jeffers, a senior director of communications for Darden, which includes such national chains as Olive Garden and the Capital Grille, said “these allegations are baseless” in a statement to The Washington Post. “Darden is a values-based company built on a culture of integrity and fairness, respect and caring, and a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

One Fair Wage pursued its latest legal strategy on tipping after discovering a research paper written by an attorney who was pursuing a graduate degree at Harvard Law School. The paper made the argument that the sub-minimum wage violates the Civil Rights Act, based on tipping research conducted by, among others, professor Michael Lynn of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

The paper “resonated so strongly with what we had heard from workers for so long,” said Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage and a graduate of Yale Law School. It also fit into the larger cultural movement of many Americans coming to grips with the country’s long history of racial inequality.


(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The group decided to put the legal theory into practice by filing its complaint against Darden with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. In the past, the organization has helped put forth successful ballot initiatives to eliminate the two-tiered minimum wage in several jurisdictions, including Michigan and Washington, D.C., only to have them undermined by legislatures and city councils. In 2018, the D.C. Council repealed Initiative 77, which passed with 55 percent of the vote and would have gradually eliminated the two-tiered system in the city.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating when legislators overturn the will of the people, not just in D.C., but in Michigan and Maine. We won it in all three places,” said Jayaraman. “I will say that the fact that we keep winning and the legislators have to keep overturning it should be a clear indication that there’s overwhelming public

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Biden Says He Plans To “Elevate” Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Into White House Office | Video

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaigned in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday where he spoke to the “Black Economic Summit.” During a rare Q&A at the end of the event, Biden spoke about a new plan to move the Civil Rights Divison out from under the preview of the Justice Department and directly into the White House.

The final question Biden answered had to do with reforming the Justice Department, “and especially the civil rights division after four years of Trump?”

Biden said Trump has used the Justice Department like his own personal law firm and if he is president it will be “totally independent of me.”

Biden said the Civil Rights Division would also have a direct office “inside the White House.”

“So I would make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department.”

“But most of all,” Biden said, he would have an attorney general who “understands” the DoJ is not supposed to be “the Department of Trump.”

“I’d make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights Division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department and be able to investigate, than in fact it has now,” Biden said. “I’ll do what the Justice Department says should be done and not politicize.”

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Tokyo highlights LGBTQ rights before Olympics with Pride House

TOKYO – Tokyo will open Pride House, Japan’s first permanent such center, next month to raise awareness of LGBTQ rights before and during the rearranged Olympic Games in 2021.

Although there have been similar initiatives before previous Games, organizers said Pride House Tokyo, which will open its doors on International Coming Out Day on October 11, is the first to get official International Olympic Committee backing.

“Pride House Tokyo aims to educate the world and also Japan of the difficulties the LGBTQ community has playing and enjoying sports … while helping create a safe space for the community too,” Pride House Tokyo said in a statement on Monday.

“Many people might think that Japan is a human rights defender, but actually there are no laws to protect LGBTQ people.”

Gon Matsunaka

It is traditional for most nations competing at the Olympics to have a hospitality “house,” where they promote their country and hold parties for winning athletes.

Gon Matsunaka, the head of Good Aging Yells, one of the organizations supporting the project, said Japan lags behind many other developed nations when it comes to LGBTQ rights.

“Many people might think that Japan is a human rights defender, but actually there are no laws to protect LGBTQ people,” Matsunaka told Reuters via email.

“Society is filled with prejudice, discrimination and harassment towards LGBTQ community.”

“While we have to change the sports arena, we also hope Pride House Legacy can help change society as a whole as well.”

Gay marriage is illegal in Japan and although about two dozen cities, towns and wards issue same-sex partnership certificates, they lack legal standing and prejudice persists.

Fumino Sugiyama, a transgender man and former fencer for the Japanese national team, said little had changed in 15 years since retiring from professional sport.

“Even now looking around, there are few LGBTQ athletes that live their lives openly and that is the reality here in Japan,” Sugiyama told a news briefing to launch Pride House Tokyo.

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Tokyo Highlights LGBTQ Rights Before Olympics With Pride House | World News

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo will open Pride House, Japan’s first permanent such center, next month to raise awareness of LGBTQ rights before and during the rearranged Olympic Games in 2021.

Although there have been similar initiatives before previous Games, organizers said Pride House Tokyo, which will open its doors on International Coming Out Day on October 11, is the first to get official International Olympic Committee backing.

“Pride House Tokyo aims to educate the world and also Japan of the difficulties the LGBTQ community has playing and enjoying sports … while helping create a safe space for the community too,” Pride House Tokyo said in a statement on Monday.

It is traditional for most nations competing at the Olympics to have a hospitality ‘house’, where they promote their country and hold parties for winning athletes.

Gon Matsunaka, the head of Good Ageing Yells, one of the organizations supporting the project, said Japan lags behind many other developed nations when it comes to LGBTQ rights.

“Many people might think that Japan is a human rights defender, but actually there are no laws to protect LGBTQ people,” Matsunaka told Reuters via email.

“Society is filled with prejudice, discrimination and harassment towards LGBTQ community.”

“While we have to change the sports arena, we also hope Pride House Legacy can help change society as a whole as well.”

Gay marriage is illegal in Japan and although about two dozen cities, towns and wards issue same-sex partnership certificates, they lack legal standing and prejudice persists.

Fumino Sugiyama, a former fencer for the Japanese national team who now identifies as a man, said little had changed in 15 years since retiring from professional sport.

“Even now looking around, there are few LGBTQ athletes that live their lives openly and that is the reality here in Japan,” Sugiyama told a news briefing to launch Pride House Tokyo.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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