Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $19 million to settle a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of female employees at the restaurant chain. Outback is owned by private-equity investor Bain Capital LLC. It was alleged by the EEOC that Outback, with 950 restaurants worldwide, discriminated against its female workers by denying them equal opportunities to advance. Women “hit a glass ceiling” and couldn’t get promoted to management positions that offered profit-sharing, according to the EEOC.
The EEOC filed the suit in 2006 in federal court in Denver. Judge Christine Arguello has approved the settlement. Outback agreed to start an online application system for employees interested in managerial jobs and hire a vice president of people, a new position. An outside consultant is to monitor compliance. The women alleged they were denied promotions to lucrative managing-partner positions because of their gender.
The settlement is the largest ever for a case handled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s district office, which covers Colorado and four other states, according to Rita Byrnes Kittle, a senior trial lawyer for the agency in Denver. She had this to say: “The EEOC brokered this far-reaching and comprehensive settlement in the public interest to foster a discrimination-free workplace at Outback.” More than 20,000 current and former female employees at Outback restaurants nationwide could be eligible for awards of up to $100,000 as part of the class. To qualify, employees need at least three years’ tenure with Outback from 2002 to the present. The amount of the award is based on an employee’s experience, position and claims. A claims administrator will send letters to those who may be eligible.
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