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Feds: Steakhouse chain to settle sex discrimination suit for $1 million

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Steakhouse chain agrees to settle lawsuit claiming it only hired women to wait on tables
  • Lawry's has agreed to actively promote the hiring of men as servers
  • Male employee at Lawry's sued the California-based chain in March 2003
  • The $1.025 milion settlement still requires court approval before it can go into effect
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Lawry's, a California-based chain of high-end steakhouses, has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a sex-discrimination lawsuit that claimed it only hired women to wait on tables.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday announced the settlement of the federal class action lawsuit. Under the EEOC consent decree, Lawry's has agreed to actively promote the hiring of men into server position among other remedies.

The EEOC launched an investigation into the case after a male employee at Lawry's sued the chain in March 2003, arguing that he was denied a job as a server because of his sex.

"It was basically tradition," said Richard Cope, Lawry's marketing director, noting that women had been working as servers at Lawry's since 1938 -- when it was rare to find women in such roles.

He said that before the complaint was filed, it was "fairly rare" that men would seek jobs at Lawry's as servers; most male employees filled other positions, such as chefs, carvers or busboys.

However, since the complaint, the company "undertook substantial efforts to remedy the matter."

The $1.025 milion settlement still requires court approval before it can go into effect. Among other requirements, it calls for $500,000 in relief to the plaintiffs' class, $300,000 for an advertising campaign on hiring servers and $225,000 to train employees on federal hiring laws.

"The EEOC will never condone discrimination in the name of so-called tradition," said Olophius E. Perry, district director of the EEOC in Los Angeles. "Every individual deserves a fair chance to obtain a job based on their talent and qualifications, regardless of gender."

CNN's Samira Simone contributed to this report.