Seasons 52 pays $2.85M to settle age discrimination charge
- Seasons 52, a national restaurant chain, will pay $2.85 million to settle an age discrimination lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued, alleging that the employer denied jobs to applicants age 40 and older at 35 of its restaurants around the country, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
- During litigation, more than 135 applicants testified that Seasons 52 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 restaurant also hired workers older than 40 at a much lower rate than younger workers, EEOC alleged.
- In addition to the monetary settlement, the consent decree requires significant changes to Seasons 52's recruitment and hiring processes, EEOC said. It also requires the company to pay for a compliance monitor, who will ensure that the company complies with the decree.
Age discrimination persists and remains somewhat pervasive, even though the ADEA was enacted half a century ago, various experts have told HR Dive. However, the law is clear: employers can't take adverse employment actions against people age 40 and older because of their age.
EEOC remains focused on this area of the law, and has made clear that its enforcement efforts will continue. Diverse Lynx, LLC, a New Jersey-based IT staffing firm recently settled an EEOC suit for $50,000 after allegedly denying an applicant a job because he was born in 1945 and telling him "age will matter."
Even of the nation's heaviest hitters, including IBM, have been suspected of attempting to skirt ADEA requirements. Recruiting practices have recently come under fire, too; in a closely watched case, PwC is defending claims that its campus recruiting efforts are inherently ageist.
HR may be in the best position to notice such bias. Employers often include potentially discriminatory language, even inadvertently, in job ads, with dog-whistle phrases like "digital native" or "energetic person." And, as seen in the Seasons 52 case, hiring managers may need training on appropriate interview questions and selection criteria.