In what it is calling an “unusual case,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday, on behalf of two male employees.
The restaurant’s Park City, UT, location allegedly put out an internal job posting to Ruby Tuesday workers in a nine-state region in 2013, promoting a lucrative summer opportunity for bartenders to work in a busy resort area. The positions, which would include housing and expenses, were to be filled with “an explicit and exclusive preference for female applicants,” according to court documents.
“It’s rare to see an explicit example of sex discrimination like Ruby Tuesday’s internal job announcement,” William R. Tamayo, EEOC San Francisco regional attorney, said in a press release. “This suit is a cautionary tale to employers that sex-based employment decisions are rarely justified, and are not consistent with good business judgment.”
The company claims that it wanted to hire only women for these positions so that it would not need to accommodate co-ed housing. What is rare, as the Washington Post noted in its Jan. 26 commentary, is that Ruby Tuesday would be so open and upfront about its preference for female applicants.
The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of two men who applied for the positions: Andrew Herrera, a longtime employee of a RubyTuesday in Oregon, and Joshua Bell, who worked at a Missouri location.
“[Herrera] 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,” EEOC Field Office Director Nancy Sienko said in the release. “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.”
The lawsuit is seeking financial damages in an unspecified amount for Herrera, Bell and other affected men who have yet to be identified. In addition to the states already represented, the posting was distributed in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada and Utah.
The EEOC is the federal agency tasked with monitoring and defending workplace rights violations associated with discrimination in hiring, promotion and firing. The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal district court in Oregon in January, argues that both the 1974 and 1991 Civil Rights Acts were violated by Ruby Tuesday. According to the press release put out by the EEOC, a pre-trial settlement was attempted in hopes of avoiding litigation, but failed.
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