Additional plaintiffs are being sought to join a lawsuit against a Brighton-based Taco Bell franchisor being sued in federal court for an alleged scheme involving improper wage and hour practices.

The defendant, Sundance Incorporated, is headquartered in Brighton and owns over 150 Taco Bell franchises throughout the United States. Four plaintiffs were named in the complaint who worked as crew members and differing levels of management at various locations throughout Metro Detroit. But in a ruling released last week, Judge George Caram Steeh granted conditional certification for hourly employees of Sundance in the last three years to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleges various minimum wage and overtime violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act.

Attorney Megan Bonanni is among those representing represents the plaintiffs - who are seeking damages, back pay, restitution and other relief. She previously told WHMI they have heard from clients “that these illegal pay practices have been going on for many years.” At various points, Sundance is accused of failing to pay employees for all hours worked including overtime, and regularly instructed employees to clock out but continue working. It alleges Sundance engages in a practice in which it “shifts” hours that an employee works during one week over to the following week so that time records do not demonstrate an employee worked over 40 hours in a given work week. Sundance allegedly keeps a white board in its Brighton office to keep track of employees’ “shifted hours.”

The complaint further reads that for hourly employees who regularly work over 40 hours, Sundance does not engage in the shifting exercise but simply does not pay them for all hours worked by capping their paychecks at 80 hours per two-week pay period. Sundance has denied the allegations and maintains that the plaintiffs are not entitled to relief under the Federal Labor Standards Act. (JK)