Restaurant Chain Pays Nearly $3 Million to Settle Age Discrimination Claims

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 10, 2018

Discriminating against employees or job applicants because of their age is not just wrong - it also can prove costly, as one employer recently found out.

The Florida-based restaurant chain Seasons 52 has agreed to pay $2.85 million and provide equitable relief to settle an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of applicants ages 40 and older who had been denied jobs because of their age.

More than 135 applicants testified that the chain's managers asked them their age or made age-related comments during their interviews, including: "Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh," "Most of the workers are younger," "Seasons 52 hires young people," or "We are really looking for someone younger." The company also hired applicants ages 40 and older at a significantly lower rate than applicants under the age of 40.

Those applicants who were denied a position because of their age will be identified and compensated under a claims process established by consent decree. Seasons 52 also agreed to make changes to its recruitment and hiring processes.

The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals over the age of 40 in hiring, firing, promotions, pay and other employment opportunities. The law also prohibits employers from making statements of age preference or age limitations in job advertisements and notices (except in cases where age is a bona fide occupational qualification), discrimination in apprenticeship programs and denial of benefits to older employees.

As part of its strategic plan, the EEOC continues to focus on systemic failure-to-hire age discrimination cases. For some time, the agency has been targeting online job advertisements that contain explicit terms that would tend to exclude older applicants, such as the use of "boy," "girl," "young," "energetic," or that would include preferred graduation years.