Past and present Macado’s restaurant employees won preliminary approval to seek back pay and damages through a class-action lawsuit open to bartenders and servers going back more than three years.

The Roanoke-based chain could challenge the establishment of the class later in the case but must now help notify workers and former employees so they are aware of the legal action, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled Friday.

The company, which has been in business since at least the early 1990s, said in court papers that it has 21 locations.

Three workers brought suit in Lynchburg federal court in 2018, and since then 26 others have opted in, court papers show. In all, about 500 people could be eligible to join the action, plaintiffs’ lawyer Russ Bryant said Friday.

The suit involves only tipped workers compensated by the company at $2.13 an hour for serving customers, with tip income additional.

The lawsuit accuses the company of staffing its restaurants with fewer workers than needed, resulting in tipped workers being required to perform excessive amounts of non-tip-producing tasks and to work off the clock.

The untipped work included cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes, taking out trash, refilling salt and pepper shakers, restocking beer and vacuuming, the plaintiffs alleged. The unpaid tasks were similar, the suit said.

Bryant said the workers seek three categories of compensation: back pay, damages equal to the back pay, and reimbursement of attorney fees and costs.

Macado’s, which is based on Church Avenue in Roanoke, denied in a court filing all allegations of wrongdoing. The company asked the judge to dismiss the case.

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Jeff Sturgeon covers business, banking, transportation and federal court. Phone: (540) 981-3251. Email: jeff.sturgeon@roanoke.com. Mail: 201 W. Campbell Ave., Roanoke, VA 24011.

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