Two workers at Steak n Shake restaurants in Georgia are suing the Indianapolis-based burger chain for allegedly failing to pay minimum wage and overtime to hourly employees.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in a federal court in Georgia, seeks class-action status against Steak n Shake Operations Inc.
Plaintiffs Justin Beecher and Priscilla Cain are current Steak n Shake employees who have worked in various positions, including as servers and trainers. They claim the company directed restaurant managers to adjust the hours of employees who had worked more than 40 hours a week to avoid paying overtime.
A document created by Steak n Shake titled “audit trail report” reflects revised “clock in” and “clock out” times for the hourly employees, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs also allege that the restaurant chain failed to pay the proper minimum wage for servers earning tips from customers.
They claim Steak n Shake adjusted the weekly tips to falsely reflect a higher amount. By doing so, the company eliminated any difference between the servers’ regular hourly rate and the federally required minimum wage, thereby skirting any obligation to pay a minimum wage differential, the complaint said.
In addition, Steak n Shake adjusted the hours of servers to reflect a lower number in order to increase their regular hourly rate and to also avoid paying a minimum wage differential, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs accuse the company of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and are seeking unpaid minimum and overtime wages, as well as other monetary damages.
Steak n Shake is owned by San Antonio-based Biglari Holdings Inc. The chain operates about 490 restaurants in 22 states.
Officials for both Steak n Shake and Biglari did not return phone messages seeking comment on the suit.
Heather L. Wilson, an attorney and member of the labor and employment group at Frost Brown Todd LLC’s Indianapolis office, typically represents companies in wage disputes.
She said these types of claims are quite prevalent, regardless of potential liability, because many employers choose to settle rather than get drawn into a lengthy court battle.
“If you’re claiming that you haven’t been paid overtime, there might be others who are making that claim,” she said. “These types of cases can be costly because many times they do seek to be class actions.”
Wilson said companies can protect against wage disputes by having their policies and procedures comply with state and federal wage and hours laws, which can be complex, and implementing them correctly.