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Old at 40? Food chain pays the price for age discrimination

We may joke about the number of “Q-tips” (people with white hair) in our midst, but there is no doubt the population of the United States is aging.  The United States Census Bureau predicts that from 2012 to 2020, the numbers of those age 65 and over will increase by 3.1 percent, while those under age 65 will go down by 3.1 percent.  This means more workers will be older workers, if we plan to have enough people to fill jobs.

“This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “And even though we have an aging population we continue to see age discrimination in the workplace.”

In a recent case involving Texas Roadhouse Inc., job applicants over age 40 who applied for front-of-the-house positions (servers, hosts, server assistants and bartenders) were involved in a lawsuit claiming they were denied employment based on their age.  Ultimately, Texas Roadhouse and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission came to an agreement resolving the issue.

“Texas Roadhouse will pay $12 million to be divided between job applicants who were denied employment due to the company’s policy,” Freedman said. “The company will also be prevented from discriminating on the basis of age, and will have to establish positions for a diversity director and a decree-compliance monitor to ensure the company complies with the terms of the agreement.

“It will also have to increase recruitment among older individuals for front-of-the-house positions.”

A representative of the EEOC said this is an important case which shows the very real consequences of age discrimination and the need for job opportunities for older workers.

“For most of us, 40 is barely middle-age.  If we allow those who are middle-age to be discriminated against, what will happen to those who are older?  Texas Roadhouse is a good example to other companies that this type of discrimination can no longer go on,” Freedman said.