CHICAGO – Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), a restaurant workers group and vocal advocate on industry wages and working conditions, indicated on Jan. 31 it will sue Darden Restaurants Inc., the nation's largest full-service restaurant operator, in federal court in Chicago. The suit will allege racial discrimination and violations of state and federal labor laws by the company's Capital Grille steakhouse chain, Reuters relays.

ROC said this lawsuit will charge Caucasian workers have lucrative "front-of-house" positions, such as waiters or bartenders, while many lower paying, back-of-the-house jobs, such as washing dishes or preparing food, are allegedly being given to non-Caucasian employees. ROC added the lawsuit was being filed on behalf of members who are Capital Grille employees in Chicago, New York City and Washington, DC. The suit will further allege employees were forced to work without pay, did not get rest breaks and tipped employees were forced to share tips with non-tipped workers, ROC added.

Darden has repeatedly asked ROC for details about the allegations but received no response, according to company spokesman Rich Jeffers. Darden employees have a variety of ways to file grievances against the company, he added.

Darden operates more than 1,900 outlets and has about 179,000 employees in the US and Canada. Its Capital Grille steakhouses, which total approximately 45 units, are the most upscale restaurants in Darden’s portfolio.