Outback To Pay $19 million for Sex Discrimination Suit

12/30/09 Concetta DeLuco
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Outback Steakhouse will pay $19 million as part of a settlement in a major sex discrimination lawsuit brought against the company by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

The Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse is part of OSI Restaurant Partners. The $19 million agreement was decided yesterday and comes as the result of a suit filed in 2006.

OSI Restaurant Partners is headquartered in Tampa and was founded in 1988. Besides Outback, OSI also owns restaurants such as Carrabbas, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s and Fleming’s Steakhouse. The nationwide lawsuit against Outback originated in Denver, Colorado.

Mary Jo O’Neill, the EEOC’s regional attorney on the case, said three women employed by Outback and seeking managerial positions filed complaints in 2003 with the EEOC.

O’Neill said many of the women who have filed claims with the Commission were similarly denied favorable job assignments such as kitchen management experience, which is required for workers to be considered for management positions. So far, a few hundred women have filed claims with the EEOC, but O’Neill said she expects a lot more.

Besides the $19 million that will be distributed among the women, O’Neill said the settlement will create many other improvements for female Outback employees.

According to a St. Petersburg Times article, OSI claims to have already begun making these types of infrastructure changes prior to its settlement with EEOC. However, when WMNF contacted OSI Restaurant Partners for verification, they refused to comment on the case.

One recent change at OSI, however, was the appointment of Liz Smith as the new CEO in November. She replaced longstanding CEO Bill Allen. O’Neill said she is happy with the appointment of Smith and glad that OSI has been taking the right steps toward correcting the situation.

According to that same St. Petersburg Times article, OSI stressed that the settlement state Outback was not at fault, and that paying the settlement entirely with insurance money was preferable to the cost and distraction of further litigation.

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