Darden Restaurants’ Seasons 52 chain has agreed to pay $2.5 million and alter its recruitment and hiring practices to settle allegations of age discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today.
Seasons 52 admitted no wrongdoing or guilt in accepting the settlement, which is known as a consent decree.
The 3-year-old legal action arose from sworn reports by 135 applicants for Seasons 52 positions that managers had asked about their ages and made age-related comments during job interviews. All of the complainants were under age 40.
Seasons 52 is a polished-casual, full-service concept that specializes in healthful, farm-fresh fare and features an extensive array of wines.
The EEOC, which filed the action on behalf of the applicants in 2015, also noted that Seasons 52 hired a much higher percentage of employees under age 40.
Such findings have been cited before the EEOC as proof of age discrimination on the part of restaurant chains. The industry has countered that applicants for positions also tend to be younger than 40, characterizing that phenomenon as a reflection of the restaurant worker rather than evidence of any age bias.
The consent decree obliges Darden to pay for a “compliance monitor,” a watchdog who will keep an eye on Seasons 52’s hiring processes.
At the time the action was filed, Seasons 52 consisted of about 35 restaurants. It now has about 41 locations.
The concept was founded as a health-oriented option for aging baby boomers.