Darden restaurants—the company behind Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chains—will pay $2.8 million dollars in a settlement stemming from a lawsuit that alleged its Seasons 52 restaurants deliberately didn’t hire older, white men. Orlando Sentinel reports Seasons 52 admits no liability in the suit, and continues to deny the claims that it discriminated against older men in its hiring process.
The settlement money will be distributed among 254 people identified in the suit, which alleged that managers at Seasons 52 tried to promote a “young, hip image” by refusing to hire older men. The suit began with two men, ages 52 and 42, who alleged they weren’t hired because of their age. Subsequently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found more than 250 additional people who reported the same treatment.
“Seasons 52 interviews across locations repeatedly told applicants things like ‘We don’t hire people over 40,’ ‘Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh’ or asked them for their date of birth, high school graduation date, or a driver’s license,” David Seltzer, an with the EEOC’s Miami district office, told the Sentinel.
That “smoking gun”—the managers who allegedly said flat-out that age was a factor in hiring—was considered crucial to the plaintiffs’ case. Though Darden denies such discrimination, Seasons 52 is required to hold “age-neutral” and anti-discrimination training for all hiring managers. Frankly, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea for any restaurant chain these days.