A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against the owners of Southern California IHOP and Applebee’s restaurants by a former employee. The plaintiff, an African-American woman who was an employee of DineEquity, Inc., the owner of several restaurants in and around Los Angeles, accuses her former employer of violating California’s wage and hour laws and discriminating against her and similarly situated employees. 

The plaintiff worked for DineEquity as a manager for 22 years before she was unceremoniously dismissed after she spoke out against another employee for how she was being treated as an African American. She claims that DineEquity continually undermined her authority as a manager and misclassified her as an exempt employee as an attempt to avoid paying her overtime. In her pleadings, the claims that she was a manager in title only, since she was not given the authority to hire, fire or evaluate employees. In fact, she claims that she was not given a fair opportunity to perform her duties.  

Indeed, the mis-classification of employees is problem that many small businesses have and are slow to correct because they depend on employee ignorance in order to get labor that they do not properly pay for. As for the nature of the class action, the plaintiff brought suit on behalf of the many employees (whether or not they have been fired) that may have been underpaid or discriminated against due to what makes them a part of a protected class.

Class action lawsuits depend on the court’s certification of a class. If you have questions about whether your lawsuit can (or should) be brought on behalf of a class, an experienced attorney can advise you.