A major age discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Texas Roadhouse was settled out of court Friday for $12 million.
A four-week trial in the cased ended in February in a hung jury. The retrial was scheduled for next month.
The EEOC brought a class action “pattern or practice” lawsuit against the Kentucky-based company in 2011 charging the chain had refused for years to hire workers aged 40 and above for front-of-the-house positions (i.e. servers, hosts, server assistants and bartenders).
Clearly, $12 million won’t break the bank for Texas Roadhouse, a national restaurant chain that earned $400 million in gross profits in 2016. However, Texas Roadhouse also agreed, as part of the settlement, to stop discriminating on the basis of age in the future and to increase its recruitment and hiring of employees aged 40 and older for front-of-the-house positions.
Hopefully, the case will serve as a warning to other national restaurant chains that refuse to hire older workers for front–of-the-house positions.
The EEOC also said Texas Roadhouse will establish the position of diversity director and pay for a compliance monitor to oversee the terms of the three and a half-year consent decree.Instead of denying the charge of age discrimination, Texas Roadhouse went on the defensive and embarked on a political campaign to discredit the EEOC.
Texas Roadhouse CEO and founder W. Kent Taylor complained to members of the U.S. Congress that the age discrimination lawsuit was not triggered by an individual complaint but by the observations of EEOC staff. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a report blasting the EEOC for supposed over-zealousness.
Despite overwhelming evidence, a federal jury in Massachusetts failed to hold Texas Roadhouse accountable for age discrimination, which is symptomatic of the problem. Age discrimination in America is invisible in plain sight; it is the last form of irrational and harmful employment discrimination that remains widely tolerated.
Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the New York District Office, noted that 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. “During this landmark year for the ADEA, everyone should recognize how far we still have to go in eliminating age discrimination in the workplace,” he said.
The EEOC presented evidence in the case showing that only 1.6 percent of the people Texas Roadhouse hired for front-of-house positions from 2007 to 2014 were older than 40, the age protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
An EEOC experts said the chances that Texas Roadhouse used age-neutral hiring practices from 2007 to 2014 were one in 781 billion.
Other evidence included sticky notes affixed to job applications that said things like “old,” “super old,” and “old and chubby.” A human resources representative testified that her boss admitted age bias, saying, “Did we do it? Of course we did it.”
As part of the settlement, the EEOC announced that a claims process will be established to identify and compensate affected individuals who applied to Texas Roadhouse for a front-of-the-house position between 2007 and 2014.
Individuals who believe they may have been denied a front-of-the-house position at Texas Roadhouse because of their age after Jan. 1, 2007, should contact the EEOC toll-free at (855) 556-1129, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate “Consent Decree” in the subject line.