Is Paying Employee Wages with Prepaid Debit Cards a Total Scam?

13:51 August 25, 2016
By: Brittany Henderson

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of famous restaurants including Olive Garden, is supposedly one of the worst employee scammers of the country.

According to U.S Uncut, Darden Restaurants scam up to half of their 148,000 workers by paying them with prepaid debit cards instead of regular pay checks. While the debit card saves the employer $2.75 per pay, the workers deal with a burden of fees to retrieve their money, spending up to $1.75 in fees to withdraw money, $0.75 to check the card’s balance, $0.99 to use the card for utility bill payments, and an additional $ 0.50 if the card is declined. Tipped workers earn $2.13 an hour, while the fees associated with the prepaid card take away large portions of the workers hard-earned money.

Prepaid debit cards are becoming a more popular way of payment for employers. According to a study from Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), 7.4 million American workers are paid with prepaid debit cards. An estimated 12.2 million Americans will be paid by prepaid debit cards by 2019. Restaurants save up to $5 million per year using these cards as a way of payment.

Is Paying Employee Wages with Prepaid Debit Cards a Total Scam?

The Darden Restaurant chain’s banking partner who issues the cards receives an inheritance as a result of scamming workers. Think Progress reports that Darden’s partners earn about $1.75 per card, bringing in $1.5 million.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warned employers in 2013 against issuing prepaid debit cards. “Employees must have options when it comes to how they receive their wages,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said. “Employers cannot mandate that their employees receive wages on a payroll card. And for those employees who choose to receive wages on a payroll card, they are entitled to certain federal protections.”

According to U.S Uncut, the Darden Restaurant chain called the ROC United report “false,” arguing that the only fees for the cards were for using out-of-network ATMs and the $0.50 fee for the cards being declined at cash registers, which was eliminated on June 1. Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers accused ROC United of “waging a campaign of harassment and disparagement against our company for five years.”

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