Filed by Former DineEquity Inc. paralegal Jewel Garner, the suit states that the defendants misclassified employees as overtime-exempt. Further claims state they allowed a racially charged work environment to exist and engaged in racial discrimination by placing black employees in competition against each other and holding them to different standards from other workers.
According to court documents, Garner told a California state judge that DineEquity used her title as a manager of franchise compliance in order to avoid paying her overtime wages. However, she claims she was manager in name alone, as she never had the authority to hire, fire or make other personnel decisions for DineEquity.
"Despite the fancy title, Gardner remained a paralegal whose duties were to make certain that new and existing franchises complied with franchise law in the jurisdictions in which the company maintained franchise restaurants,"the complaint states.
Garner also asserts that DineEquity expected a higher quality of work from black employees than from others. "African-American employees of DineEquity were held to a higher standard than non-African-American employees and were the subject of discrimination by those who resented having to correct the errors that were discovered by Gardner and other African-American employees,"the suit states.
Gardner worked for DineEquity and its predecessor IHOP, for over 22 years before she was fired in February 2015, after an incident in which she spoke out against her treatment by a co-worker, the complaint states.
Gardner's superiors claimed she withheld information about a franchise deal, and allowed her to be reprimanded at an interdepartmental meeting in front of other employees. When she raised issue with the assertion, and her treatment at the meeting, she was placed on leave and ultimately fired, the complaint states.
The suit was filed on behalf of current and former employees who may have been misclassified as exempt from overtime compensation. It seeks damages for racial discrimination and violations of California wage and labor laws, according to the complaint.
Gardner is represented by Lorraine Grindstaff of Patten Faith & Sandford. The case is Jewel Gardner vs. DineEquity Inc., case number BC610815, in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, Central District.