MIAMI – (hospitalitybusinessnews.com) Seasons 52, a national restaurant chain and one of the Darden restaurant brands, engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of age discrimination in hiring hourly employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that since at least 2010, Seasons 52 has been discriminating against a class of applicants for both “front of the house” and “back of the house” positions, such as servers, hosts and bartenders, by failing to hire them because of their age (40 years and older) when opening new restaurants.
According to the lawsuit, various Seasons 52 management hiring officials would travel to new restaurant openings to oversee their staffing. Older, unsuccessful applicants across the nation were given varying explanations for their failure to be hired, including “too experienced,” the restaurant’s desire for a youthful image, looking for “fresh” employees, and telling applicants that Seasons 52 “wasn’t looking for old white guys.”
Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-20561-JLK, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for applicants denied employment because of their age, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent age discrimination by Seasons 52, and training on discrimination for its managers and employees.
“This case represents one example of the barriers to hiring that some job applicants face,” said Malcolm S. Medley, district director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “Eradicating barriers to employment opportunities is a priority of the Commission.”
Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District, said, “As workers remain in the workforce longer, it is more important than ever that we refocus on the principle of non-discrimination based on age in the workplace. The EEOC will vigorously protect the rights of job applicants to ensure that hiring decisions are based on abilities, not age.”
Orlando, Fla.-based Darden currently owns and operates 43 Seasons 52 restaurants in 18 states. Of these, 35 have opened since 2010.