LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a sex discrimination class action lawsuit for $1,025,000 and far reaching injunctive relief against Lawry's Restaurants, Inc., doing business as Lawry’s the Prime Rib, Five Crowns, and Tam O'Shanter Inn (Lawry’s), for allegedly failing to hire men into food server positions for decades. Lawry’s is a California-based corporation operating restaurants in Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Corona del Mar, Calif.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged Lawry’s with maintaining a longstanding companywide policy of hiring only women for server positions in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex-based discrimination. The EEOC’s involvement was initiated by a charge of discrimination filed in March 2003 by a male applicant in Las Vegas.
The EEOC filed suit on March 31, 2006, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (CV 06-1963 DDP (PLAx)) after investigating the charge of discrimination, finding merit, and first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. In investigating the case, the EEOC found that Lawry’s policy barring men from being hired as servers had existed since 1938, despite the enactment of Title VII a quarter century later. While, Lawry’s claimed the policy was based on tradition, the EEOC found the policy adversely affected a class of men on the basis of sex.
“Sex discrimination, against men and women alike, continues to be a problem in the 21st century workplace,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “This case should remind corporate America that employment decisions must be based on merit and ability to do the job – not on gender stereotypes.”
Under the consent decree resolving the case, Lawry’s has agreed to change its longstanding policies and practices, and to actively promote the hiring of men into server positions. The three-year decree, pending approval before the Hon. Judge Dean D. Pregerson, requires Lawry’s to:
- Provide monetary relief and develop a class fund in the amount of $500,000;
- Hire a claims administrator to identify and distribute the monies to the class of individuals;
- Pay over $300,000 to institute an advertising campaign regarding the hiring of food servers;
- Pay $225,000 for training all of its employees on compliance with Title VII and related laws;
- Revise its hiring and other policies and practices to comply with Title VII;
- Appoint an equal employment opportunity officer to ensure compliance with the decree;
- Report to the EEOC on the progress under the terms of the decree; and
- Post a Notice at all of its restaurants in at least three locations frequented by employees.
Regional Attorney Anna Park of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, who oversaw the litigation, said, “We are pleased with the comprehensive relief contained in this sweeping consent decree, which addresses the lingering perception that Lawry’s excludes men in server positions.”
EEOC Los Angeles District Director Olophius E. Perry, who managed the administrative investigation preceding the litigation, added, “The EEOC will never condone discrimination in the name of so-called tradition. Every individual deserves a fair chance to obtain a job based on their talent and qualifications, regardless of gender.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.