EEOC: Employee Housing Privacy Concerns No Excuse for Discrimination

In a press release announcing a settlement with the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) emphasized that there is rarely a justification for gender discrimination in employment. In the summer of 2013, Ruby Tuesday posted an internal announcement for servers to transfer to its Park City, Utah location, with company-provided housing and the chance for increased income. The position, however, was limited to female servers because of privacy concerns with the housing situation. Two male employees who were denied the opportunity to work in Park City filed a claim of gender discrimination with the EEOC.

On May 21, 2015, the EEOC announced that Ruby Tuesday will pay $100,000 to the two male employees and will provide training on Title VII and job assignments to all of its employees in the geographical area that was the target of the job posting (approximately 1,600 managers and employees in 49 locations). In addition, information about the settlement will be posted on their website and in their restaurants. This case is a good reminder that mere convenience or cost-savings for the employer is not sufficient to create a “bona fide occupational qualification” in a position that would permit gender discrimination. Instead, the distinction must be “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business.”