Dori K. Stibolt, an associate in our West Palm Beach office, has made a guest appearance today with this post, which she also published today in our South Florida Trial Practice Blog.  See http://southfloridatrial.foxrothschild.com/employment-litigation/an-expensive-lunch—gender-based-hiring/   What do you think?

 

It’s Just Lunch, a Hallandale Beach, Florida match making company has agreed to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit, filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for $960,000.

Specifically, the EEOC had alleged that It’s Just Lunch refused to hire men as dating directors and inside sales representatives.  The EEOC also claimed that Lynda Twist, a human resources director for It’s Just Lunch, was terminated in retaliation for her opposition to the bar on hiring men.

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Settlement Terms

According to the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, which was approved by the U.S. District Court Friday, It’s Just Lunch will pay approximately $900,000 to settle the lawsuit, including a payment to Ms. Twist of $130,369.  The remaining settlement funds will be paid into an account that will be distributed to a class of qualified male job applicants who applied for dating director and inside sales representative jobs with It’s Just Lunch from 2007 to the present, but were not considered for employment.  The agreement also provides that It’s Just Lunch must implement a detailed applicant tracking system, provide training to managers, human resources personnel and employees, and provide quarterly hiring reports to EEOC for three years.

Is it Ever Okay to Base Hiring Decisions on Gender?

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating in employment decisions based on gender, race, national origin, religion or age.  But, Title VII also, however, allows for discrimination based on protected characteristics (except race), when that characteristic is what is called a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification” (“BFOQ”). To be a BFOQ, being a member of that group is essential to the job.

To use this exception to the rule against discrimination, an employer must be able to prove that no member outside the desired group could perform the job.  A simple example would be hiring only women to model women’s clothing.

Employers need to be mindful that restricting employment based on gender, or any other protected category, regardless of customer preference (or perceived preference) is asking for trouble.

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Dori K. Stibolt is a senior associate with Fox Rothschild LLP, located in the West Palm Beach office.  She defends and counsels management/employers in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.