According to an announcement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Outback discriminated against its female employees with respect to the terms and conditions of employment, and denied women equal opportunities for advancement. The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit that female employees hit a glass ceiling at Outback and could not get promoted to the higher-level profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants.
In addition, the EEOC alleged that women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly kitchen management experience, which was required for employees to be considered for the top management job in the restaurants.
The $19 million in monetary relief will be administered through a claims process in which an administrator will send letters to all female workers employed at corporately-owned Outback restaurants from 2002 to the present who have at least three years of tenure.
In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement, contained in a four-year consent decree, requires that Outback:
- Institute an online application system for employees interested in managerial and other supervisory positions;
- Employ a human resource executive in the newly created position of Vice President of People;
- Employ an outside consultant for at least two years who will determine compliance with the terms of the decree and analyze data from the online application system to determine whether women are being provide equal opportunities for promotion; and
- Report every six months to the EEOC on carrying out the terms of the decree.
“We encourage women who believe they were discriminated against by Outback to come forward and complete the claims form to obtain monetary relief. We also encourage all current female employees at Outback to take advantage of the new application process and let Outback know that they are interested in promotion,” said EEOC Denver Trial Attorney Stephanie Struble, who jointly led the litigation effort, in the announcement.
“There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “… Hopefully this major settlement will remind employers about the perils of perpetuating promotion practices that keep women from advancing at work.”