It all comes back to Hooters.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that Hooters’ policy of not hiring males to be servers constituted sex discrimination. Hooters launched a “public awareness campaign” asking customers to complain to the U.S. Congress. The EEOC backed down, citing budgetary limitations. In other words, Hooters’ thwarted the EEOC’s efforts to battle irrational and illegal discrimination in the workplace without even having to go to court.
Now the Kentucky-based restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse is following Hooters’ example. It is facing a 2011 lawsuit filed by the EEOC that alleges the company does not hire workers over the age of 40 for “front of the house” positions. Texas Roadhouse apparently is concerned that it might actually lose in court (though, God knows why) so it has taken its battle to the U.S. Congress, where it has succeeded in marshaling the support of prominent Republicans.
According to EEOC documents, Texas Roadhouse managers were not subtle when they turned away older applicants. They made comments like:
- “We think you are a little too old to work here … We like younger people.”
- “We’re hiring for greeters, but we need the young, hot ones who are chipper and stuff.”
- “You seem older to be applying for this job.”
And the EEOC is not exactly aggressive when it comes to age discrimination. It received 20,588 complaints of age discrimination in 2014, which was about 23 percent of all claims it received. It filed 12 lawsuits in 2014 with age discrimination claims, which was about 7 percent of all of the lawsuits it filed. Of course, in most cases, age discrimination was just one of several claims.
Still, outraged Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee say they are looking into why the EEOC investigates companies in the absence of a specific complaint – companies like Texas Road House!
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, a member of The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, last year issued a “Minority Staff Report” claiming the EEOC had supposedly refused to provide Texas Roadhouse with “the basis for its investigation” into the restaurant chain.
And, of course, behind the scenes is the ever-present U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which issued a report last year blasting the EEOC for its supposed over-zealousness and “questionable enforcement tactics and legal theories.”
Meanwhile, Texas Roadhouse CEO and founder W. Kent Taylor has the gall to criticize the EEOC for targeting his restaurant chain when it has 70,000 cases of “racial and other complaints of discrimination that are back-logged on and not acted on.” As if Taylor gives a hoot about workplace discrimination!
Isn’t it enough to turn your stomach?