Is Class-Action Sometimes Spelled F-E-M-I-N-I-S-T?

January 14, 2010 | NeW Staff

I came across a Wall Street Journal article back in December that caught my eye.  The article covered the recent class-action lawsuit concerning sex discrimination against thousands of women at Outback Steakhouse restaurants in the US.  OSI Restaurant Partners LLC paid $19 million to settle the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit, filed against the private company by the EEOC in federal court in Colorado in 2006, said female employees couldn’t get promoted to the higher-level profit-sharing management positions in the restaurants and were denied favorable job assignments, particularly kitchen-management experience, which was required for employees to be considered for the top management job.”

The settlement also requires Outback to create a new human-resource position, the Vice President of People, as well as hire an outside consultant for a minimum of two years to confirm compliance.  The outside consultant will analyze data to determine “whether women have equal opportunities for employment.”

OSI settled using insurance funds, citing that was “preferable to the cost and distraction of further litigation.”  This is not uncommon for large corporations; it is extremely expensive to fight special-interest groups.  OSI also noted that no fault was recognized with Outback Steakhouse.

What caught my eye about this is the CEO of OSI, Liz Smith.  Yes; Elizabeth Smith, a woman.  OSI is one of the largest casual dining companies in the world, with restaurants like Outback Steakhouse, Roy’s Restaurants, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill.

What did Smith do prior to her appointment as CEO of OSI in November?  She was the President of Avon; a company dedicated to the growth and promotion of women.  The Avon website states exactly what the company is all about:

“Our vision is to be the company that best understands the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women globally. Our dedication to supporting women touches not only beauty – but health, fitness, self-empowerment and financial independence.”

Wall Street Journal’s online Market Watch covered Smith’s track record in this press release about her appointment as CEO:

“Smith, age 46, is a member of the Board of Directors of Staples, Inc. and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.   She is listed by Fortune Magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in business in 2009. S mith holds a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.”

Now that is a woman who has worked hard and earned her position!  Something tells me that Elizabeth Smith would not be one to tolerate sex discrimination in her company.  So this leads me to ask… were the thousands of women who filed the class-action lawsuit looking for equal opportunities or equal employment?

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