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Sex Discrimination Lawsuit With Male Bartenders

Sex Discrimination Lawsuit With Male Bartenders

Emily Tsao and Karen Robison-Jacobs / The Dallas Morning News

May 09, 2008

May 9-Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the restaurant chain routinely declined to hire or promote men who wanted to be bartenders.

In a lawsuit filed in 2005 against the Addison-based restaurant chain, the Dallas office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission represented nearly 90 male applicants, servers and bartenders. The initial complaint came to the commission in 2003.

The EEOC claimed that Razzoo’s tried to keep an 80-to-20 ratio of women to men behind the bar. Male applicants and servers had planned to testify that managers told them Razzoo’s wanted “mostly girls behind the bar,” the commission said.

“I was working for a while and my [general manager] promised me the bar a couple of times,” said Michael Driver, a 27-year-old former Razzoo’s employee, who is among the 88 men covered by the agreement. “I walked in, and there was a new girl at the bar.”

After several rebuffed attempts to work behind the bar – where tips are often better – he said he became a manager. He left the company in 2003 after a four-year stint.

“The few men who were promoted to bartender were not allowed to work lucrative girls-only bartending events,” the EEOC said in a news release issued this week.

Razzoo’s attorney Robert Luxen said the company agreed to settle the case to avoid the time and expense of a trial but does not admit guilt.

“We deny we ever subjected any applicant or employee to discrimination based on sex,” Mr. Luxen said Thursday.

The company also denied the “80-20” ratio. “There was never any evidence that supported that allegation,” he said.

A spokesman for the EEOC said e-mails between Razzoo’s executives explicitly discussed the 80-20 ratio. And Mr. Driver said the ratio often was discussed among employees.

“It was kept kind of quiet, sh, sh, but it was obvious,” he said.

Mr. Luxen said some restaurants had more women than men behind the bar, but not because of a gender criterion.

As part of the settlement, Razzoo’s will pay $775,000 to the men covered by the agreement. The company also will spend at least $225,000 for human resources services and agree that it will not engage in discrimination, the commission said.

According to its Web site, Razzoo’s has 10 locations in Texas, including restaurants in Plano, Irving and Fort Worth.

Last year, Razzoo’s reached a $38,750 settlement with a former waitress who was a Jehovah’s Witness. Sabrina Balentine refused to help celebrate customers’ birthdays at the chain’s Mesquite eatery because of her faith. The EEOC said the woman was fired. The company said she quit.

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