Is Texas Roadhouse Too-Downhome-To-Discriminate?
That seems to be the defense to a systemic age discrimination EEOC lawsuit against the 500-outlet chain of steakhouses currently in its 4th week of a jury trial in Boston, according to an article by Peter Gosselin.
The EEOC claims that among other things job applicants had their files yellow-stickered with comments such as “Old ‘N Chubby,” and “‘OLD,’ ‘little older lady,’ and ‘middle age … Doesn’t really fit our image.’”
“Doesn’t really fit our image” – we’ve seen that before. Recall the Disney and Abercrombie & Fitch “look policy,” the latter adopted to make sure that every employee sport a “preppy” brand image but which was ultimately struck down. A Muslim woman whose religion required her to wear a hijab, or head scarf, challenged the policy.
But we haven’t seen “Old ‘N Chubby.” Chalk up another new one.
The jury was presented “statistics showing that, of the almost 200,000 people Texas Roadhouse hired over the years for so-called front-of-the-house jobs, fewer than 3,000 were over 40 — a disparity so great the government’s expert witness estimated the odds of it happening absent discrimination at one in 781 billion.”
The company denies the allegations, challenges the statistics, claims that the EEOC has no authority to commence or maintain such systemic suits, and its lawyers “have sought to portray the company and its CEO-founder, W. Kent Taylor, as so folksy and plain-spoken it would be hard to imagine either committing systematic discrimination.”
The EEOC has “countered that the anti-discrimination language that Texas Roadhouse distributed to employees was undercut by photographs that the firm used to illustrate who fit its ‘image’ and ideal of ‘legendary service.’ Virtually all were of young people, according to the EEOC. ‘The recipe for ‘legendary service’ is this: Hire young. …”
Takeaway: Let’s see what the jury has to say.