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EEOC: Outback’s kitchen rules keep women out of management

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

A group of women are suing Tampa, Fla.-based Outback Steakhouse, claiming they were steered into “female” jobs such as hostess and cocktail waitress and away from kitchen work. Because kitchen experience is a key requirement for promotion at the company, the women say they were shut out of management positions.

The EEOC found that, of 37 employees promoted to kitchen manager in the 20 Colorado, Wyoming and Montana restaurants named in the lawsuit, none was a woman. Tom Flanagan, who oversees Outback operations in the region, has called the kitchen the “engine room” of a restaurant.

Plaintiff Victoria Eckenroth claims she was denied a kitchen job in a Colorado Springs restaurant on the grounds that women couldn’t lift heavy pots. She was later passed over for promotion to manager because she lacked kitchen experience. Another plaintiff was told she couldn’t work in the kitchen because the male workers found her “too distracting.” A manager at a Thornton Outback restaurant allegedly said point-blank that he didn’t allow women to work in the kitchen.

EEOC attorneys attempted to go national with the case, but U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham recently denied the request, saying Outback had not received adequate notice. The suit currently is limited to women who worked in Flanagan’s territory.

Tip: Consider periodic audits of your promotion and hiring numbers to ensure your policies aren’t favoring one group over another.

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