The EEOC has filed suit against the Texas Roadhouse Restaurant franchise, alleging that the business intentionally discriminated against older workers (those over 40 years old) in its hiring practices.  The company allegedly rejected applicants for jobs as waiters and bartenders by telling them things like, "We think you are a little too old to work here." It needed greeters, it said, but only "young, hot ones who are ‘chipper’." 

The EEOC alleges that its statistical analysis shows that only 1.9 percent of so-called ‘front of the house’ employees (greeters, waiters, bartenders, etc.) at Texas Roadhouse are aged 40 or older.

ABCNEWS has the complete story here (includes video).  In its report, ABC reports that the EEOC has had an increase in age discrimination complaints during the current economic downturn. In November, EEOC hearings on the impact of the economy on older workers found that workers 55-and-up spend far more time searching for work than do younger workers and are jobless far longer. Older workers have suffered "the longest spell of high unemployment" seen in the past 60 years.

Dallas employment lawyer Michael Kelsheimer writes about the same case this month on his Texas Employer Handbook blog.  In his thoughtful piece he discusses the fact that, despite what many may think, discrimination is real and there is still a substantial amount of it out there.  He writes:

Before I got involved in employment law, I was naive enough to believe that discrimination was largely a thing of the past. I was flat wrong. Even with all the hype, sex and race discrimination are still out there. They are hidden better these days, but these types of discrimination are still there.

He notes that in his personal experience, age discrimination is the most prevalent form of discrimination he sees and he discusses why he thinks that his.  Kelsheimer posits that much of the very real discrimination out there against workers over 40 may be unintentional – but that it won’t matter when it comes to facing a jury trial.  

For my part, I am not as willing to believe that employers don’t know what they are doing when they hire a 25-year-old with little experience over a 40-year-old with plenty.  But then, my viewpoint has been altered from the years I have spent working with clients who have had their lives devastated by discriminatory firings.  

In any event, Kelsheimer’s article is a good one and I encourage you to give his blog a look.