Sunday, January 3, 2010

Outback Steakhouse To Pay $19 Million For Sex Bias Against Women In "Glass Ceiling" Suit By EEOC

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced last week that Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $19 million and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a major class lawsuit alleging sex discrimination against thousands of women at hundreds of its corporately-owned restaurants nationwide. According to the EEOC, Outback discriminated against its female employees with respect to the terms and conditions of employment, and denied women equal opportunities for advancement. The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit that female employees hit a "glass ceiling" at Outback and could not get promoted to the higher-level profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants. The EEOC also alleged that women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly kitchen management experience, which was required for employees to be considered for the top management job in the restaurants. The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in September 2006 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida, Inc., and OS Restaurant Partners, Inc. d/b/a Outback Restaurants, No. 06-cv-01935). In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement, contained in a four-year consent decree signed by Federal Court Judge Christine M. Arguello, requires that Outback: (a) institute an online application system for employees interested in managerial and other supervisory positions; (b)employ a human resource executive in the newly created position of Vice President of People; (c)employ an outside consultant for at least two years who will determine compliance with the terms of the decree and analyze data from the online application system to determine whether women are being provide equal opportunities for promotion; and (d) report every six months to the EEOC on carrying out the terms of the decree. The $19 million in monetary relief contained in the settlement will be administered through a claims process in which an administrator will send letters to all female workers employed at corporately-owned Outback restaurants from 2002 to the present who have at least three years of tenure.