Employment discrimination and harassment suits are multiplying rapidly. The rising costs of these suits are expensive for employers with an average settlement of $550,000, some as high as $900,000, on top of defense costs. The numbers are staggering and should serve as a warning to employers to address initial employee complaints adequately. Employers who put strong measures in place to prevent and address employment discrimination, harassment and retaliation may avoid EEOC charges and lawsuits. JD Supra shares key mistakes made by Reserve Casino Hotel in this age and sex discrimination suit.
Company Discriminated Against Older Women Applicants by Refusing to Hire Them, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER – RCH Colorado, owner and operator of the Reserve Casino Hotel, a prominent hotel and casino in Central City, Colo., will pay $250,000 to settle an age and sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
EEOC’s lawsuit charged that RCH Colorado, formerly known as Luna Gaming Central City, bought the casino, formerly known as the Fortune Valley Hotel and Casino, in January 2011, and violated federal law by choosing to hire younger candidates over older candidates and male candidates over female candidates with equal or greater qualifications.
According to EEOC’s suit, RCH Colorado refused to hire four older women applicants in the positions of slot attendant and cocktail server. Out of the 14 applicants for the slot attendant position, only the three oldest female applicants were not hired. RCH Colorado also refused to hire the oldest cocktail server, who was 63 years old.
EEOC’s lawsuit further alleged that prior to the sale of Fortune Valley, casino managers went around and took photos of employees on the casino floor. These photos were later used by RCH Colorado to screen out older, less attractive employees. EEOC’s investigation found a significant disparity in the hiring of female applicants and/or applicants age 40 and older.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. RCH Colorado, Case No. 1:15-cv-02170-RM-NYW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to requiring RCH Colorado to pay monetary damages to the four women, the consent decree settling the suit requires RCH Colorado and its successors to conduct semi-annual anti-discrimination training for its employees, managers, supervisors and human resources employees. RCH Colorado will also revise and distribute its anti-discrimination policies and report to EEOC if there are any complaints of age or gender discrimination. The court approved the settlement and will retain jurisdiction for purposes of compliance for three and one-half years.
“The ADEA and Title VII are clear that discrimination on the basis of a person’s age and/or sex is a violation of federal law,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neil. “Employers cannot hide behind any marketing or rebranding efforts to discriminate against older, seasoned workers.”
EEOC Denver Trial Attorney Laurie Jaeckel added, “A growing body of research finds that older women face discrimination that is more prevalent and acute than other subcategories of the workforce, including that of younger women and older men. This litigation shows EEOC’s commitment to ensuring the protection of older women from discriminatory hiring practices.”
EEOC Denver Field Director John Lowrie said, “This resolution is an excellent result for the four women applicants, who will receive compensation, and for current casino employees, who we expect will see an improved working environment where they will not be mistreated based on their age or gender.”