Twelve Million Dollars to be Paid out by Restaurant Chain for Age Discrimination
The EEOC took aim at Texas Roadhouse in 2011, claiming that the restaurant chain engaged in a pattern or practice of age discrimination by refusing to hire applicants over the age of 40. According to a press release issued by the EEOC, Texas Roadhouse has now agreed to pay a total of $12 million to an as-yet unidentified group of prospective employees, along with agreeing to take a number of corrective actions to ensure no further discrimination.
The EEOC filed its complaint against Texas Roadhouse in the fall of 2011, claiming that Texas Roadhouse discriminated against applicants based upon their age in violation of the ADEA, based upon statistical, documentary and anecdotal evidence. In the complaint, the EEOC asserted that only about 1.9% of the restaurant chain’s front of the house employees were in the protected age group (age 40 and over), despite the fact that this was disproportional to the general population in the locations of the restaurants and also well below the Bureau of Labor Statistics data for such positions within the industry and well below the protected age group’s representation in the applicant pool for these positions.
The EEOC also claimed that the restaurant chain, either directly or implicitly, instructed their managers to hire younger job applicants, including by using a PowerPoint that includes a slide that directs managers to know what a front of the house employee looks lie and then shows a group of young people. According to the complaint, some of Texas Roadhouse’s hiring officials made statements to older applicants clearly demonstrating their bias against them, including “you seem older to be applying for this job,” that the restaurant was “a younger set environment,” “we think you are a little too old to work here,” “we’re hiring for greeters but we need the young, hot ones who are ‘chipper and stuff’”, and finally, “I’m basically looking for young teenagers.”
The EEOC and Texas Roadhouse reached an agreement just last week. Under this agreement, Texas Roadhouse agreed to take a number of steps to insure that no further age discrimination occurs, including agreeing to be overseen by a compliance manager who will make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to who will then supply the EEOC with data and information that shows compliance. Texas Roadhouse also agreed to implement certain recruiting and hiring efforts to increase the number of applicants within the protected age group and to provide training related to these age discrimination issues. Texas Roadhouse also agreed to deposit $12 million dollars into a settlement fund to be paid to those yet to be determined claimants. The group of claimants who will receive these funds will be determined by a third party claims administrator and any funds left over after all claimants are paid will be donated to a charity.
Certainly, some better manager training could have gone a long way to avoid some of the problems here. Regardless of what a manager might think best fits the dynamic of a workplace, he or she needs to understand what is prohibited under the law.