Texas Roadhouse To Pay 12 Million

Texas Roadhouse, a Kentucky-based steakhouse chain, has been ordered to pay restitution to plaintiffs who filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the chain. The company has also been ordered to change its hiring practices, hire a diversity director, and comply with a consent decree. The company has also agreed to pay for an impartial monitor to ensure the company is following the guidelines of the agreement.

Texas Roadhouse found themselves in hot water with the EEOC in 2011, when a suit was filed against the company. The lawsuit alleged that individuals were denied front-of-house positions because of their age.  Individuals over the age of 40 were denied work as hostesses, bartenders, and servers due to their age.

Court documents alleged that the practice of refusing front-of-house work to people over 40 years of age was a pervasive practice across the chain’s 450 locations. The method was an attempt to keep the eatery looking young and trendy to those dining. However, such practices are in direct violation of Title VII.

Applicants who can perform the tasks of a particular job cannot be denied the job due to their age, race, religious beliefs, or gender under Title VII. Texas Roadhouse failed to comply with the law by refusing to hire individuals over 40 years of age. Some locations, according to the lawsuit, were more brazen than others. The complaint alleges that applicants over 40 were told the work was intended for younger workers. The complaint also alleged that hiring managers noted age and body type on the applications of some applicants.

The EEOC first filed the lawsuit in September of 2011 in Massachusetts. A trial, which resulted in a hung jury, was scheduled for a retrial in May of 2017; however,  a settled agreement was reached.

According to the EEOC, many applicants remain unaware that they were discriminated against due to their age. When the settlement was reached, potential age discrimination victims were asked to e-mail the EEOC with the subject line “consent decree” to be added to the list of claimants.

What is Texas Roadhouse?

Texas Roadhouse, a steakhouse chain, opened its first location in Indiana in 1993 by Kent Taylor. They expanded quickly through the 1990s, eventually going public in 2004. By 2015 there were 450 Texas Steakhouse locations in 49 states and seven countries.

The chain promotes their American fare and claims to offer "legendary food with legendary service." In-house cut steaks, homemade dressings, and a chain-specific rib recipe are the most heavily consumed items. The company often competes in food competitions.

Other High Profile Age Discrimination Lawsuits

While Texas Roadhouse may be the most recent chain to be found discriminating against applicants because of their age, they are certainly not the first. In fact, age discrimination lawsuits are not particularly uncommon, especially considering such discrimination can be subtle and hard to quantify.

In 2012, a 66-year-old man filed a suit against Lockheed Martin. The lawsuit alleged that the Moorestown location practiced age discriminatory practices by regularly laying off individuals over the age of 50 and hiring younger employees to do the same job. The suit alleged that in one sweep five employees, all over the age of 50, were laid-off from their project specialist jobs. The complaint contends younger workers were hired to take their place.

Google has also been taken to court on several occasions for age discrimination. In 2007, a lawsuit was filed alleging an employee was fired for not being a “cultural fit.” The employee alleged he was called “old man” by his coworkers on a regular basis and was informed Google performs well because of its young employees. This case was settled out of court.

In 2015 a 60-year-old man filed an age discrimination suit against Google alleging discrimination in hiring practices. Robert Heath, the plaintiff, alleges his interview with a Google engineer was awkward, and purposely conducted to remove him from the running for the job because of his age. Court documents note the average age of employees is just 29, much lower than the national average.

The Bottom Line

Discriminatory practices remains a common occurrence in today’s workforce. As a company owner it is important to work directly with your team, recruiters included, to ensure all potential employees and current employees are being treated fairly and equally.  Practices must be put in place to ensure age discrimination is not a part of your company culture.


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Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). When Does HR Cross Over Into Law? https://lynchsc.com/insights_1/texas-roadhouse-pay-12-million.

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