The Seasons 52 restaurant chain promises that its guests will be treated to “seasonally inspired menus featuring ingredients at their peak of freshness.”
But according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the restaurant also ensured that its wait staff would be at the peak of freshness, to the point that it discriminated against job applicants who were older than 40. As a result, Seasons 52 has been ordered to pay $2.85 million to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the EEOC.
This is an expensive resolution to a lawsuit that was filed in 2015 on behalf of Anthony Scornavacca and Hugo Alfaro, who were 52 and 42, respectively, at the time they’d been denied employment at Seasons 52. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the EEOC then contacted “thousands” of people over 40 who had applied for jobs as hosts or servers at Seasons 52 restaurants; it eventually found 254 applicants who “claimed they were treated with bias.” According to Law360, these alleged discriminatory hiring practices were reported at more than 30 Seasons 52 locations, and dated back as early as 2010.
"Defendants' hiring officials have told unsuccessful applicants in the protected age group that: 'you are too experienced'; 'we are looking for people with less experience'; 'we are not looking for old white guys'; 'we are looking for "fresh" employees'; and that Seasons 52 wanted a 'youthful' image," the EEOC’s complaint said.
Darden Restaurants, which owns and operates Seasons 52 (along with Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and Capital Grille) has denied that it ever discriminated against The Olds, but it is still required to pay up—and it’s also required to ensure that its hiring managers go through a training course on “non-discriminatory recruiting, interviewing and hiring” and on avoiding age-related stereotypes, a curriculum that could probably be called, “Let’s not go through this again, K?” Any job applicant who felt like he or she had been discriminated against will also be encouraged to reapply with the chain. (Good luck, Phyllis!)
"When an employer shuns an employee simply because of age, everyone loses. The employer loses experience, wisdom and institutional memory. The employee, of course, loses his or her livelihood,” Robert E. Weisberg, an EEOC district regional attorney, said. “In this case, with a class of discrimination victims nationwide, that's a lot of loss for everyone."
A Darden spokesperson said the company was “pleased to resolve” the lawsuit. The EEOC said that the $2.85 million settlement will be distributed to the 254 people who were on the receiving end of that discrimination, as well as others “expected to come forward.”
We’re gonna guess that none of them will make reservations at their local Seasons 52 to celebrate their legal victory.