Health food-focused chain Seasons 52 is being sued over its hiring practices. According to News-Press, a lawsuit was filed Thursday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that alleges the chain practices "age discrimination" when hiring. The EEOC believes that Seasons 52 — which has 43 locations across 18 states — fails to hire people over the age of 40 for front and back of house positions because of their age.
Seasons 52 is allegedly not interested in "old white guys."
The lawsuit alleges that Seasons 52's hiring data shows that their hiring rates of those 40 and over are "well below" what is expected based on the number of applications submitted and related Census data. It also accuses Seasons 52's management of turning down older applicants by explaining that the restaurant is looking for a "youthful image" and "fresh" employees, and even apparently telling some applicants that the chain wasn't interested in "old white guys."
The chain — which is owned by Darden, the same group that owns Olive Garden — vehemently denies the allegations: A spokesperson notes that Darden "fully investigated this claim when it first arose more than four years ago, and the allegations were not substantiated." The spokesperson adds that the company "will defend this claim vigorously." The EEOC is seeking monetary compensation "for applicants denied employment because of their age" and procedures to prevent "age discrimination" by the chain in the future.
Darden has faced many challenges in recent years. Besides this lawsuit, the company has had to deal with other legal matters, like a class action lawsuit suing Darden for adding automatic gratuity to bills. Darden has also had to sell off seafood-chain Red Lobster, the company's private jets, and battle investors over Olive Garden's breadsticks.