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Outback Pays $19M for Sexual Bias

(CN) - Outback Steakhouse will pay $19 million to settle an EEOC class action discrimination claim brought by thousands of women at hundreds of the chain's outlets nationwide.

The EEOC alleged that female employees hit a glass ceiling at Outback and could not be promoted to the higher-level, profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants. Women were denied favorable job assignments, particularly in kitchen management, which was required for consideration for the top management job in the restaurants.

"There are still too many glass ceilings left to shatter in workplaces throughout corporate America," said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. "The EEOC will continue to bring class lawsuits like this one against employers who engage in gender discrimination on a systemic scale. Hopefully this major settlement will remind employers about the perils of perpetuating promotion practices that keep women from advancing at work."

In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement requires that Outback institute an online application system for employees interested in managerial and other supervisory positions; employ a human resource executive in the newly created position of Vice President of People; employ an outside consultant for at least 2 years to monitor compliance and analyze data from the online application system to determine whether women are being provide equal opportunities for promotion; and report every 6 months to the EEOC.

The $19 million will be administered through a claims process in which an administrator will send letters to all female workers employed at corporately owned Outback restaurants from 2002 to the present who have at least 3 years of tenure.

Outback Steakhouse was founded in Tampa in 1988. The chain now includes more than 950 restaurants.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in September 2006 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida, Inc., and OS Restaurant Partners, Inc. d/b/a Outback Restaurants, No. 06-cv-01935).

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