Ryan’s Family Steakhouse Sued for Firing 79 Year Old Woman
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Thursday that it filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Fire Mountain Restaurants, LLC, doing business as Ryan’s Family Steakhouse.
According to the lawsuit, Ryan’s allegedly discriminated against Viola Brown when it reduced her hours, disciplined her and suspended her, and finally fired her because of her age, then 79, and in retaliation for her complaints about age discrimination. In doings so, Ryans violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
Browns hours were reduced from 24 hours per week to as low a nine hours per week in July 2009, according to the lawsuit. At this point in time, a coworker told Brown that the restaurant general manager referred to Brown as an “old woman” and stated that she needed to retire. The EEOC reports that Ryan’s disciplined Brown and suspended her for three days. When she returned from her suspension, she was presented with a disciplinary form which she refused to sign. The manager then told Brown that her employment had been terminated.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The agency seeks back pay and liquidated damages for Brown, as well as injunctive relief. The agency is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages for Brown for her retaliation claim.
“Too often age bias is an unlawful factor in employment decisions, and employers see older workers as dispensable,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “There is no excuse for firing an employee because of her age. The EEOC is committed to using all available means, including litigation, to combat age discrimination.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside, who is lead counsel on the case, added, “In light of the current economic conditions, older employees are opting not to retire and want to continue working, and it is unlawful under the ADEA for an employer to discriminate against such employees simply because of their age or because of the stereotype that they are ‘too old’ to work and need to retire.”
In fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received a total of 23,264 charges of age discrimination, which accounted for 23.3 percent of all charges filed with the EEOC nationwide.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.