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Restaurant Chain Settles Age Bias Case for $12 Million

After a U.S. lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse ended in a mistrial, the restaurant company, without admitting wrongdoing, settled the largest age discrimination case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in decades.

Texas Roadhouse has agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit by the government that accused the national steakhouse chain of labeling workers over 40 such things as “Old N’ Chubby” and rejecting them for jobs where customers see them.

In a consent decree with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company denied wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $12 million to be distributed to older workers who were denied jobs, as well as to have the chain’s hiring practices monitored for almost four years.

In return, the commission, which is responsible for enforcing the nation’s job discrimination laws, dropped plans to take the case to trial for a second time this year. A previous trial ended in February with a hung jury.

The EEOC suit, covering almost 500 stores and thousands of workers, was the largest age discrimination case the federal agency had taken to court in more than three decades.

It signaled a new aggressiveness on the part of the commission, which dusted off a legal tool that had been put to little use since the 1980s, that of conducting its own investigations and filing suit, rather than waiting for individuals to submit complaints and then giving them permission to sue, usually on their own.

In a press release, the commission’s recently elevated Republican acting chair, Victoria A. Lipnic, sounded relieved that the case was over. “I am pleased to see this matter come to a mutually agreed-upon resolution,” Lipnic said.

A company spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Although the Trump administration has not signaled its intentions for the commission, it has made clear that it intends to steer the Labor Department, with which the commission works closely, in a more pro-business direction by rolling back consumer and worker protections such as workplace safety and retirement savings regulations.

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston on March 31 approved the consent decree ending the commission case against the chain. The decree sets up a process for identifying and compensating workers ages 40 and older who were denied jobs at Texas Roadhouse outlets between 2007 and 2014. It requires the company to pay for a hiring monitor and to increase recruitment and hiring of 40-plus employees for so-called “front of the house” positions, such as serving staffers and bartenders.

The EEOC is asking Texas Roadhouse applicants who believe they may have been discriminated against because of their age to contact the commission toll-free at 855-556-1129, or by email at: [email protected]. Those emailing should include “Consent Decree” in the subject line.

Do you have access to information about age discrimination that should be public? Email [email protected], or here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

For more coverage, read ProPublica's previous reporting on the Texas Roadhouse case.

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Peter Gosselin

Peter Gosselin is a contributing reporter at ProPublica and a senior fellow at the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College in New York.

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