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Taco Bell targeted in pay case

Ex-employees allege illegal labor practices

PORTLAND ­ Two former Taco Bell workers are suing the fast-food chainon claims it underpaid more than 5,000 employees ­ apparently includingsome in Southern Oregon ­ in violation of Oregon law.

The company, which has faced similar allegations in other states, saysthat if there are any problems, they will be corrected.

Brandi Bravo, 24, and Peter Galambos, 20, filed their class action lawsuitlast week in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Both worked for hourly wages at Portland-area Taco Bells.

The lawsuit alleges other illegal labor practices:

Permitting, encouraging and coercing workers to perform unrecorded, off-the-clockovertime and nonovertime work.

Often refusing to pay workers for recorded overtime hours worked at one-and-one-halftimes the regular pay rate, then falsely attributing overtime hours as nonovertimeduring other work weeks.

Failing to provide paid rest breaks, and failing to provide either propermeal breaks or compensation for work performed during meal breaks.

Failing to maintain accurate records of the hours worked by the plaintiffs.

Secretly reducing workers' recorded hours while purporting to pay forall hours worked.

In a similar case, a Washington jury found that Taco Bell permitted off-the-clockwork, failed to pay overtime premium pay and engaged in illegal meal andrest-break practices.

The Oregon lawsuit alleges that Taco Bell requires managers to calculatelabor costs as a percentage of sales on an hourly basis. Salaried managerscan qualify for incentive bonuses by keeping labor costs below allowablelevels, the lawsuit said.

Company spokeswoman Laurie Gannon said of the lawsuit's allegations:That's not the way we operate.

Taco Bell is sending letters to current and former hourly workers offeringto pay substantiated wage claims, and may fire some managers, she said.

The lawsuit includes Southern Oregon workers, attorneys for the plaintiffssay. Local managers referred inquiries to corporate headquarters; sourcesindicate Medford-area operations aren't affected by the action.

In their lawsuit, Bravo and Galambos said Taco Bell's notification didnot adequately apprise workers of their legal rights.

Taco Bell, based in Irvine, Calif., is a subsidiary of Pepsico.