Ruby Tuesday has decided against fighting its age discrimination suit in court and will take a settlement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the age discrimination case against the restaurant after complaints arose around six of its chains. While Ruby Tuesday is not admitting guilt or that there actually was age based discrimination, it is agreeing to pay $575,000. Additionally, Ruby Tuesday will be taking steps to prevent future age discrimination. One of the steps Ruby Tuesday will be taking is to not only keep applications and records according to Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and EEOC requirements, but to perform random audits at the six chains to ensure compliance, as well.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a federal law that protects individuals who are 40 years old or older. It is an interesting law because it does not protect those under 40 and there is no reverse discrimination, meaning employers can have and show preferences for those who are over 40 without violating the law. That does not, however, mean that employers who are over 40 are free to discriminate against others who are over 40. For example, even though an employer may only hire those over 40, the employer can still face complaints if the employer discriminates between two employees who are both 42 or between an employee who is 50 and one who is 60. The law applies during all phases of employment from hiring to firing.
Some states have extended age discrimination protection beyond federal levels with state laws that include those under 40. However, Washington is not one of those states. The Washington State Law Against Discrimination provides similar protections to the ADEA against age discrimination in employment and the law specifically address the 40 year age minimum.
There are some exceptions to the law which allow employers to hire those best suited for a position even if it leads to the appearance of age discrimination. If an employer can prove that there are legitimate reasons for setting an age range which would exclude those over 40, then it could be a defense. For instance, if the job position legitimately required considerable physical labor or had a similar requirement that would lead to the hiring of significantly fewer people over 40, then a person over 40 may file a complaint for discrimination. But that person would likely fail to prove that the discrimination was based on age and not another bona fide reason, such as an inability to perform necessary labor. Hiring practices that do not take age into consideration, beyond making sure the person is old enough to be employed, clear job descriptions, and good record keeping protect against potential discrimination, can provide a defense, and could have prevented Ruby Tuesday’s predicament.