The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in early May announced that Orlando-based restaurant chain, Seasons 52, will pay $2.85 million to settle a nationwide age discrimination lawsuit brought by the agency. The EEOC charged that applicants over 40 years old had been denied jobs at 35 Seasons 52 restaurants around the country, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The law covers employers with 20 or more employees.
The case was based on more than 135 applicants’ sworn testimony that hiring managers asked them their age or made age-related comments during their interviews. Alleged comments included “Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh”; “Most of the workers are younger”; “Seasons 52 hires young people”; and “We are really looking for someone younger.”
The statistical evidence demonstrated that Seasons 52 hired older workers at a significantly lower rate than those younger than 40.
“Although ageism is among the most common forms of employment discrimination, applicants who are turned down rarely know the reason why,” EEOC trial attorney Kristen Foslid said. “When an employer has a trend of rejecting older applicants, the EEOC will respond aggressively to combat age stereotypes.”
Seasons 52 denied wrongdoing but agreed to settle the lawsuit and make “significant changes” to its recruitment and hiring practices, including having those practices overseen by an independent monitor for three years. The plaintiffs will be invited to reapply for employment.
About the ADEA
Nearly two-thirds of workers ages 55 to 64 report their age as a barrier to getting a job, according to the results of a 2017 AARP survey. The ADEA is meant to protect people 40 and older from discrimination in hiring, promotion and retention at organizations. To establish age discrimination under the ADEA, a plaintiff must show each of the following:
- He or she was between the ages of 40 and 70.
- He or she was subject to adverse employment action.
- A younger person filled the position.
- He or she was qualified to do the job.
The key is for HR and managers not to factor age in the hiring decision – focus on the skills and knowledge required for the position. Also, having a hiring panel comprised of people of different ages conducting interviews and making selection decisions is a good idea.
In addition, it’s important that in the event of a claim employers are protected with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), which will pay for legal defense costs and settlements or judgments in cases involving discrimination, harassment and other allegations. RPS can assist you with your clients’ EPLI needs; just give us a call.