Outback Steakhouse agreed to settle a major lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination by paying $19 million. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had filed a lawsuit representing hundreds of women who were discriminated against at the Steakhouse as they attempted to make their way up the managerial ladder in the organization.
The claim was that these women were regularly denied frequent career-advancing positions, particularly those that would put them into managerial positions, including kitchen management jobs representing a glass ceiling
The parent company of Outback Steakhouse, the OSI Restaurant Partners LLC, also accepted to implement a thorough system of checks and balances to make sure that no glass ceiling was in place at any of its facilities.
The company has agreed to develop an online application system for its employees who wish to apply for supervisory positions, including any management positions. In addition to that, it will hire human resource executive to take over a newly formulated position: Vice President of People.
The company has plans to hire an external consultant for a period of at least 2 years; this consultant would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the newly defined terms, and will also be responsible for reviewing the data obtained through the online application system to figure out whether women were being offered equal opportunities, especially with regards to promotions.
Last but not the least; the company would report to the EEOC every six months on the settlement conditions.
This lawsuit, titled EEOC vs. Outback Steakhouse of Florida, Inc., and OSI Restaurant Partners, Inc. d/b/a Outback Restaurants, No. 06-cv-01935, was filed in 2006 in the US District Court for District of Colorado, with the agreement being signed by Christine M. Arguello, a Federal Court Judge.
The monetary relief worth $19 million would be administered through a comprehensive claims process where an administrative official would inform all female employees who were/are employed at the Outback restaurant from the year 2002 till present, for a period of 3 years. Any female employees who believe they were victims of sexual discrimination could come forth and file claims.
It should be noted that the lawsuit claimed that the restaurant chain had violated Title VII of the Civil Right Acts of 1964 by not hiring or promoting women to managerial positions, providing them less training, assigning them less favorable jobs, and offering little growth opportunities.
Following the judgment by the court, EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru stated:
“There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America. The EEOC will continue to bring class lawsuits like this one against employers who engage in gender discrimination of a systemic scale. Hopefully this major settlement will remind employers about the perils of perpetuating promotion practices that keep women from advancing at work.”
All employers and HR officers certainly need to ponder over those words and ensure full compliance with the laws and regulations to avoid any unwanted lawsuits for sexual discrimination or violations of civil rights.