Popular restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse, known for its oversize portions and fried Bloomin’ Onions, has agreed to pay $19 million to settle a major sex discrimination class lawsuit. According to a press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Outback discriminated against its female employees with respect to the terms and conditions of employment, and denied women equal opportunities for advancement. The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit that female employees hit a glass ceiling at Outback and could not get promoted to the higher-level profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants. Moreover, the EEOC also alleged that women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly kitchen management experience, which was required for employees to be considered for the top management job in the restaurants.”
In addition to the multimillion dollar payout, the settlement calls for Outback Steakhouse to institute an application process for employees interested in management positions, and hire a Vice President of People and an outside consultant who will assist with compliance and the application system.
This is not the first payout from Outback. In 2001, the restaurant chain was ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to pay $2.2 million to Dena Zechella, a former employee. A jury determined that Outback paid the female Zechella less than a male employee with fewer qualifications performing the same job.
This past November, Outback parent company OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC hired Elizabeth (Liz) Smith as its new Chief Executive Officer. In an Associated Press story about the recent settlement, Smith said “the company doesn’t tolerate any form of discrimination and that she is committed to ‘very compelling and rewarding employment opportunities for all individuals.’” Hopefully, Smith can hold the company to her word.