EEOC Claims Darden Restaurant Chain Won’t Hire Workers Age 40 or Older

ORLANDO, Fla. (Orlando Sentinel/TNS) -

A federal agency sued Seasons 52 restaurants Thursday, contending the chain owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants is discriminating against job applicants age 40 or older.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the restaurant chain “has been discriminating against a class of applicants … by failing to hire them because of their age (40 years and older) when opening new restaurants.

“Unsuccessful applicants across the nation were given varying explanations for their failure to be hired, including ‘too experienced,’ the restaurant’s desire for a youthful image, looking for ‘fresh’ employees and telling applicants that Seasons 52 ‘wasn’t looking for old white guys,’ ” according to a statement from the EEOC.

Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said the company denies the allegations.

“We fully investigated this claim when it first arose more than four years ago, and the allegations were not substantiated,” Jeffers said in a statement. “We are proud of our commitment to diversity, and the EEOC’s claims are inconsistent with our business philosophy and the manner in which we operate. We will defend this claim vigorously.”

The suit was filed in federal court in Miami.

Darden operates forty-three Seasons 52 restaurants nationwide as part of the company’s specialty restaurant portfolio. Darden, Orlando’s only Fortune 500 company, also owns the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse chains.