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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Recent Settlement in U.S. District Court Case Highlights Dangers of Age Discrimination

"Growing older is a precious commodity.  Only a few can endure to achieve that distinguished distinction and quality." - Debasish Mridha

There are several types of discrimination that are prohibited by the laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including discrimination due to disability, national original, pregnancy, race, religion, and sex.  Another equally important form of discrimination that the EEOC aims to prohibit is age discrimination. 

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits any form of discrimination based upon age for people who are age 40 or older.  Some states will even protect younger workers from age discrimination.

In 2011, the EEOC filed Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-11732-DJC in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the popular chain restaurant Texas Roadhouse.  The EEOC claimed that Texas Roadhouse violated federal law by engaging in a nationwide pattern of age discrimination by failing to hire workers over the age of 40 for possessions such as wait staff, bartender, and host. 

These allegations spread across 396 restaurants in 49 states where 181,583 persons were hired to be front-of-house positions between the years 2007 and 2014.  Of those 181,583 persons hired, only 1.62% were 40 years of age or older.  According to an expert for the EEOC, the odds that these numbers were the result of a neutral hiring policy was one in 781 billion.

Ample discovery was completed and this matter was brought to Trial in early 2017.  A nearly four week trial resulted in a hung jury and the case was rescheduled for trial in May 2017.  However, prior to the case being brought to Trial for a second time, the parties settled with Texas Roadhouse agreeing to pay $12 million dollars.

In making the settlement, Texas Roadhouse denied it engaged in a policy that was based on age discrimination.  The company has agreed to proactive recruiting efforts to encourage people over 40 years of age to apply for positions with the company. 

The hung jury in the earlier Trial shows that the jury was split on whether or not there was inappropriate age discrimination involved in Texas Roadhouse's hiring policy.  One of the more interesting pieces of evidence were post-it notes that were attached to many applicants applications.  Some of the post-it notes read:

            -"Nice image, very outgoing, older, doesn't fit TRH culture, C+"

            -"Knows that if she doesn't get the job its b/c of her age, but great lady..."

            -"Creepy old dude... No!"

            -"Older mother type, decent appearance, call for interview"

            -"48 years old, looks 38, Awesome, Personable"

            "Mature, attractive (kind of), 40 yr old, loves to dance, lot of experience serving"

Even if Texas Roadhouse did not intend to discriminate by age, the evidence would certainly indicate that age was certainly a factor for consideration in its hiring practices. 

If you know someone that has concerns they may have been denied an employment opportunity due to age, it is important to contact an attorney well versed in employment law as soon as possible to discuss your options.

In the matter at hand and from the EEOC website:  Individuals who believe they may have been denied a front-of-the-house position at Texas Roadhouse because of their age after Jan. 1, 2007, should contact the EEOC toll-free at (855) 556-1129, or by e-mail at and indicate "Consent Decree" in the subject line.   

 By Attorney Samuel S. Reidy

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