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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a discrimination suit against Ruby Tuesday Inc. in Oregon’s federal district court alleging the restaurant chain wrongfully favored females when offering coveted positions at a resort location in Utah.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Ruby Tuesday in the spring of 2013 advertised temporary summer positions for its restaurant in Park City, Utah. The opportunities were offered to employees in several states and included free housing. Attracted by the increased compensation and the chance to work at a popular summer resort, Andrew Herrera, an employee with eight years’ tenure at the chain’s Corvallis, Ore., location applied for one of the temporary positions. However, Ruby Tuesday’s internal announcement specified that only female employees would be considered, and in fact only women were selected for reassignment. Ruby Tuesday reportedly did so out of concern about housing employees of both genders in the same facility.
Because the temporary reassignments ran afoul of Title VII the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its prohibition against offering more advantageous terms and conditions of employment based on gender, the EEOC initially sought to resolve the dispute through conciliation. Failing that, the federal agency now is seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief against Ruby Tuesday.
“It's rare to see an explicit example of sex discrimination like Ruby Tuesday’s internal job announcement,” noted EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “This suit is a cautionary tale to employers that sex-based employment decisions are rarely justified and are not consistent with good business judgment.”
“Mr. Herrera was a longtime employee of Ruby Tuesday who had regularly trained new hires at the Corvallis restaurant,” said Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko. “He was shocked and angered that Ruby Tuesday would categorically exclude him and other male employees from a lucrative summer assignment based purely on stereotypes about his gender. The company could have addressed any real privacy concerns by providing separate housing units for each gender in Park City, but chose an unlawful option instead.”
Ruby Tuesday Inc. is a publicly traded company with more than 800 restaurants employing some 34,000 workers worldwide. The contested reassignment program was advertised in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Utah.
Kirk Rafdal, J.D., is a staff writer for SHRM.
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