Sex Discrimination Against Men Violates Title VII
It’s not often that you see cases involving discrimination against men, but in the last few weeks the EEOC has reported two noteworthy settlements.
The Sex Discrimination Case Against Lawry’s
In early November, the EEOC announced a $1,025,000 settlement of a class action lawsuit against Lawry’s Restaurants Inc., which operates steak houses in Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Corona del Mar, California.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC charged Lawry’s with maintaining a longstanding company wide policy of hiring only women for server positions.
The policy, which has been in place since 1938, is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination because of sex.
Lawry’s claimed that the policy was based on long standing tradition. The EEOC found that the policy adversely affected a class of men on the basis of sex.
The parties reached an agreement to settle the case in early November. Under the consent decree Lawry’s agreed to:
- change its practice and actively promote the hiring of men into server positions
- provide monetary relief including a class fund of $500,000
- pay over $300,000 to initiate an advertising campaign regarding the hiring of food servers
- pay $225,000 for training its employees on compliance with Title VII and related laws
- take additional steps to insure compliance with Title VII and the decree
In its announcement of the settlement, Olophious E. Perry, who managed the EEOC investigation said:
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.
It seems to me that there are lots of restaurants out there that still have male only, or female only servers. This case makes it clear that this is one "tradition" that has seen its day.
Cheesecake Factory Settles Case Of Male On Male Sexual Harassment
The EEOC announced this week that Cheesecake Factory, Inc, a nationwide restaurant chain, will pay $345,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit involving six male employees who were subjected to repeated sexual harassment at the company’s Chandler Mall location outside of Phoenix.
The complaint charged that the restaurant knew about and tolerated repeated sexual assaults against six male employees by a group of kitchen staffers.
The evidence included abuse involving the harassers:
- directly touching the victims’ genitals
- making sexually charged remarks
- grinding their genitals against them
- forcing victims into repeated episodes of simulated rape
According to the EEOC, managers witnessed employees dragging their victims kicking and screaming into the refrigerator. Victims’ complaints were made to virtually every manager in the restaurant but the conduct never stopped. Eventually the police were called and an EEOC charge was filed.
Mary Jo O’Neill, Regional Attorney of the EEOC’s Phoenix office had this to say:
The evidence was clear, and everyone knew about it. Behind the lavish décor that the company boasts on its web site was a horribly dysfunctional workplace where male workers lived in fear.
I would like to think that this situation is unusual, but the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office’s press release points out that it's currently prosecuting a similar case against Fleming’s Prime Steak House.
What’s with these restaurants?
Lessons To Be Learned
When most of us think about sex discrimination, we think about discrimination against women, and that’s certainly what was contemplated when the “because of sex” language was added to Title VII.
(Interestingly, the addition of "sex" by a southern congressman to Title VII in 1964 was seen by most as a cynical attempt to torpedo the bill which was primarily targeted to address race discrimination)
Likewise, when most of us think about sexual harassment, we think of men as the harassers and women as the victims.
(Not so, said the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services,Inc in 1998; for more on this topic, see my article: What's Going On With Male On Male Sexual Harassment )
These recent EEOC cases draw attention to the fact that men can be victims of gender discrimination as well as outrageous sexual harassment. Both forms of discrimination are against the law and can lead to serious consequences for all involved.