Outback Steakhouse To Pay $19 Million For Sex Bias Against Women In 'Glass Ceiling' Suit By EEOC

Consent Decree Includes Online Application System, Creation of Executive HR Position

DENVER – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $19 million and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a major class lawsuit alleging sex discrimination against thousands of women at hundreds of its corporately-owned restaurants nationwide.

According to the 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. Moreover, the EEOC also 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.

“There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC will continue to bring class lawsuits like this one against employers who engage in gender discrimination on a systemic scale. Hopefully this major settlement will remind employers about the perils of perpetuating promotion practices that keep women from advancing at work.”

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in September 2006 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida, Inc., and OS Restaurant Partners, Inc. d/b/a Outback Restaurants, No. 06-cv-01935).In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement, contained in a four-year consent decree signed by Federal Court Judge Christine M. Arguello, 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;
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the agency’s Phoenix District, which has jurisdiction for Colorado, said, “We are pleased with the initiatives that Outback has agreed to in this settlement and look forward to seeing its efforts to promote women into management positions realized. Ensuring that all of the talent in a workforce is fully utilized simply makes good business sense.”

Rita Byrnes Kittle, senior trial attorney in the agency’s Denver Field Office, who jointly led the litigation effort added, “The EEOC brokered this far reaching and comprehensive settlement in the public interest to foster a discrimination-free workplace at Outback. We are particularly pleased about Outback’s commitment to a new process for employees to apply for promotion online and for hiring managers to make their selections from the online applications. We think this new process will help give women a fair opportunity to advance in the company.”

The $19 million in monetary relief contained in the settlement 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.

EEOC Denver Trial Attorney Stephanie Struble, who jointly led the litigation effort, said, “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.”

According to company information on its web site, “Outback Steakhouse was founded in Tampa, Florida in 1988. There are over 950 Outback Steakhouse restaurants throughout the world.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.