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Age bias suit against restaurant chain leads to $2.85M settlement

Age bias suit against restaurant chain leads to $2.85M settlement

Comments such as “Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh” has led to the $2.85 million settlement of an age discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Orlando-based restaurant chain, a unit of Darden Concepts Inc., the agency said Thursday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that applicants age 40 and older had been denied front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house positions at 35 Seasons 52 restaurants around the country.

The EEOC said more than 135 applicants provided sworn testimony that Seasons 52 managers asked them their age or made age-related comments during their interviews. 

The EEOC said the company also hired applicants age 40 and older at a significantly lower rate than younger applicants. The company was charged with violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Under the consent decree resolving the case, a claims process will be set up for individuals over age 40 who were denied front-of-the-house or back-of-the-house positions at the 35 restaurants, the EEOC said.

In addition to the monetary relief, the decree requires significant changes to Seasons 52 recruitment and hiring processes, among other conditions, the EEOC said.

EEOC Trial Attorney Kristen Foslid said in the statement, “Although ageism is among the most common forms of employment discrimination, applicants who are turned down rarely know the reason why. When an employer has a trend of rejecting older applicants, the EEOC will respond aggressively to combat age stereotypes.”

A spokesman for Darden said in a statement, “We are pleased to resolve this EEOC matter. Putting this behind us is good for Seasons 52, good for our team members and good for our shareholders.”

A federal appeals court held last month that the ADEA applies to outside job applicants as well as current employees, in a ruling that disagrees with another circuit court on the issue.






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