Restaurant Chain Accused of Refusing to Hire Older Workers

The EEOC has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Seasons 52.

Seasons 52, a national restaurant chain and one of the Darden restaurant brands, is facing a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The lawsuit accuses the business of engaging in a nationwide pattern or practice of age discrimination in hiring hourly employees.

According to the EEOC, Seasons 52 has been discriminating against a class of applicants since at least 2010 for both “front of the house” and “back of the house” positions, such as servers, hosts, and bartenders. Darden currently owns and operates 43 Seasons 52 restaurants in 18 states, 35 of which have opened since 2010. When opening new restaurants, the restaurant chain allegedly refused to hire workers on the basis their age, discriminating against those 40 years and older.

Seasons 52 management hiring officials would travel to attend new restaurant openings where they oversaw staffing. In at least one case where a hire was not made, the applicant was told that the restaurant chain “wasn’t looking for old white guys.” Other explanations given to applicants when they were denied positions include “too experienced,” the restaurant’s desire for a youthful image, and looking for “fresh” employees.

“As workers remain in the workforce longer, it is more important than ever that we refocus on the principle of non-discrimination based on age in the workplace,” says Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami district.

After failure to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-20561-JLK in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The agency is seeking monetary relief for applicants denied employment because of their age, as well as the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent age discrimination by Seasons 52, and training about discrimination for its managers and employees.