Lawry's Settles Men's Sex Discrimination Suit for $1,000,000
Lawry's settles men's sex discrimination suit
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a final consent decree Monday in federal court. A judge must still approve the decree, under which Lawry's agrees not to violate U.S. laws against sex discrimination.
The EEOC sued the company in 2006, three years after a busboy at Lawry's Las Vegas restaurant claimed he was barred from a more lucrative serving job.
At the time, Lawry's waitresses could earn $25,000 to $56,000 a year, depending on tips, while busboys and others typically earned about 40 percent less.
Pasadena-based Lawry's Restaurants Inc. was accused of violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bars sex discrimination.
The case was unusual because women usually are the plaintiffs in such discrimination lawsuits, said EEOC regional attorney Anna Y. Park, who oversaw the case.
While there are many waitresses in the restaurant industry as a whole, food servers at high-end establishments usually are men, Park said. However, Lawry's had a tradition of banning men that stemmed from a 1938 policy, she said.
"We hope employers take a look at their practices. Traditions or marketing is never going to be a defense," Park said.
Rich Cope, Lawry's director of marketing, said the company was pleased to resolve the issue.
"For over 85 years, Lawry's has been an industry leader in improving the quality of employment with our co-workers and continues to be committed to providing a workplace free of discrimination," he said.
Cope said the company has hired men for serving jobs since 2004, although he didn't immediately know how many men are employed as servers.
Under the consent decree, Lawry's agreed to pay $500,000 to men who were refused Lawry's serving jobs. Several hundred people might be eligible for compensation, Park said.
Lawry's also agreed to pay $225,000 to train all of its workers to comply with discrimination laws and more than $300,000 for an advertising campaign to let men know that server jobs are available, Park said.
The company also agreed to appoint an equal employment opportunity officer to ensure it complies with the three-year decree.
The settlement covers all of Lawry's restaurants in Southern California, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas and overseas.
"Sex discrimination, against men and women alike, continues to be a problem in the 21st century workplace," EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said in a statement. "This case should remind corporate America that employment decisions must be based on merit and ability to do the job — not on gender stereotypes."