Texas Roadhouse Suit Settled $12 million

texas-roadhouseA 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 texasroadhouse.lawsuit@eeoc.gov and indicate “Consent Decree” in the subject line.

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Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

2 thoughts on “Texas Roadhouse Suit Settled $12 million”

  1. With such strong evidence, I don’t understand why the first trial ended up with a hung jury. Perhaps one lone holdout who, out of principle, refused to side with the plaintiff? Reminds me of a movie or something.

    I also think age discrimination in an industry where looks matter is a particularly squishy situation. Looking young may not quite qualify as a bonafide occupational qualification, but it certainly helps the business. What’s a business to do?

    1. We’ve been conditioned to think that older people are unattractive and unpleasant. Remember when you didn’t want to hear a woman’s voice on the radio? And there were no female TV anchors? No male nurses or flight attendants. Remember black face? The moneylender in the temple. The drunken Irish … All of these are just ignorant stereotypes. Some research shows the bias against age goes deeper than any other bias. There is no reason that an older person can’t be a server at any restaurant as long as they are capable of serving food in a professional manner.

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