National restaurant chain, Seasons 52, allegedly had a recruiting and hiring policy that wanted only “young” and “fresh” employees.
The policy allegedly rejected “old white guys.” Seasons 52 is part of the Darden family of restaurants, which owns other famous national chains of restaurants such as Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse. Season 52 is based in Orlando, Florida. In February 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class action lawsuit alleging age discrimination in federal court, in the Southern District of Florida.
The EEOC’s lawsuit sought relief on behalf of a class of job applicants over 40, who had allegedly been denied positions at 35 Seasons 52 restaurants around the country. According to the EEOC, 135 job applicants provided sworn testimony that Seasons 52 mangers asked about their age or made age-related comments during the hiring process. For example, the EEOC alleges Season 52 managers made comments like “[m]ost of the workers are younger,” “Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh,” “Seasons 52 hires young people,” or “[w]e are really looking for someone younger.” According to the Orlando Sentinel, a manager allegedly told the EEOC words to the effect of “old white guys” are not employable at the company.
After three years of litigation, the EEOC announced a settlement on May 3, 2018. Under the settlement, Seasons 52 will pay $2.85 million to a class of plaintiffs over 40. There were at least 254 plaintiffs, but additional people affected by Seasons 52’s discriminatory practices may come forward. In addition, the settlement also requires Seasons 52 to change its recruiting and hiring processes. Specifically, Seasons 52 must not discriminate on the basis of age in the future. Finally, Seasons 52 will be under scrutiny from a compliance monitor, at Seasons 52’s expense.
This case is an example of blatant age discrimination. Most cases are not so blatant. Many cases do not involve statements proving the employers’ discriminatory practices. However, this case serves as a reminder to employers that the EEOC is investigating workplace discrimination complaints aggressively, including age discrimination complaints. Employers would be wise to review their recruiting and hiring practices.
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