waiter.jpgWould you want a man serving you dinner when you’re out at a fancy restaurant?

The owners of a high-end group of steakhouses thought you wouldn’t, and they were barring men from such duties since 1938 in the name of tradition.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday that Lawry’s Restaurants Inc., which operates Lawry’s the Prime Rib, Five Crowns and Tam O’Shanter Inn, settled a sex discrimination class action lawsuit for $1,025,000 for failing to hire men as food servers. The Pasadena, CA-based company operates restaurants in Los Angeles, Chicago, Law Vegas, Dallas, among other cities.

Despite the enactment of a law that prohibited discrimination based on gender in the 1960s, Lawry’s went right on discriminating against men who wanted to be servers at their establishments.

Lawry’s, which has its female servers wear 1930s and 1940s style costumes, used the that’s-how-it’s-always-been-done defense. But the EEOC wasn’t buying it.

“The EEOC will never condone discrimination in the name of so-called tradition,” said EEOC Los Angeles District Director Olophius Perry. “Every individual deserves a fair chance to obtain a job based on their talent and qualifications, regardless of gender.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the settlement stemmed from a complaint by a Lawry’s busboy six year ago claiming he was denied a better paying job as a server because he was a male.

An EEOC spokesman said the agency often gets claims by men based on gender, but it was rare for the agency to sue a company because they failed to hire men as waiters.

The settlement includes everything from paying damages to those men who feel they’ve been wronged, to training and an ad campaign to promote hiring of all genders.

Lawry’s desire to keep a certain cache at its restaurants is nothing new. Other companies have come under fire for trying to maintain a certain look among their workforces, but as a result discriminating against a group or groups.

Abercrombie & Fitch, the hip retailer, became the poster child for such cases, coming under fire for trying to maintain a white, good-looking sales force at its stores and in the process allegedly discriminating against African American, Hispanic and Asian job applicants.

There is nothing worse than denying an individual the opportunity to make a good living and hold a great job based on their gender, race, etc.; but many businesses I speak to are worried that they’re being restricted to the point that they can’t create the type of customer experience they believe will bring in the big bucks.

Should all workplaces be/look diverse?

What about all the fashion magazines that line the magazine racks across America? I mainly see women on the covers of those publications. Can a case be made to gender-diversify Vogue as well? And where’s the EEOC class action lawsuit against Corporate America which has few women board members and CEOs. And, when’s the last time you saw a woman flinging knives at Benihana?

What’s your take? (If you get a chance, also weigh in by taking the poll on the right.)

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]