$1.9M Settlement in EEOC Suit Charging Chicago Restaurant With Not Hiring African Americans

“Rosebud” was the last word spoken by the lead character in Citizen Kane, in reference to his beloved sled from his boyhood. But Rosebud means something else for African Americans in and around Chicago, as a business that won’t hire them.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that Rosebud Restaurants, Inc. will pay $1.9 million and furnish other relief to settle a class race discrimination lawsuit filed by the commission.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, 13 Italian restaurants operated by Rosebud in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs refused to hire African-Americans because of their race. The EEOC also charged that managers, including Rosebud owner Alex Dana, used racial slurs to refer to blacks.  At the time EEOC began investigating Rosebud’s hiring practices, many of its restaurants had no African-American employees at all.

The EEOC also asserted that Rosebud violated federal regulations by failing to maintain employment applications for one year and by failing to file employer information reports providing employment data by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender.

Race discrimination in hiring violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit against Rosebud on Sept. 17, 2013 (case number 13-cv-6656) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process. The suit resulted from a charge of discrimination filed by former EEOC Commissioner Constance Barker.

The consent decree settling the suit, approved by Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland, calls for Rosebud to pay $1.9 million to African-American applicants who were denied jobs.  Additionally, Rosebud has agreed to hiring goals for qualified black applicants, with the aim that 11% of Rosebud’s future workforce be African-American.  In addition, the decree enjoins Rosebud from engaging in race discrimination or retaliation in the future. It also requires Rosebud to recruit African-American applicants, train employees and managers about race discrimination and retaliation, provide periodic reports to EEOC on compliance with the decree’s terms for four years, and post notices informing employees of the decree’s terms.

The restaurants covered by the suit include The Rosebud; Carmine’s; Rosebud on Rush; Rosebud Prime; Mama’s Boy; Rosebud Steakhouse; Rosebud Deerfield; Rosebud in Naperville; and the closed restaurants Rosebud Old World Italian; Rosebud Theatre District; Rosebud of Highland Park; Rosebud Burger & Comfort Foods; Rosebud Trattoria; Joe Fish; EATT; Bar Umbriago; and Centro.

EEOC Chicago District Director Julie Bowman said that she was pleased with the cooperation between EEOC and Rosebud in resolving the suit.

“Although it has been several years since the EEOC filed suit, the case was resolved after a lengthy negotiation process that occurred before any depositions were taken in the case and without significant pre-trial motions, sparing both sides from incurring substantial litigation expenses,” said Bowman.

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted, “African-Americans have faced and still face barriers in being hired at upscale restaurants, especially in visible, and often well-paid, positions such  as server. That is why the recruiting and hiring relief in this decree is so important. It will lead directly to qualified blacks being hired for front- and back-of-the-house positions, helping to remedy past discrimination by Rosebud and ensuring equal employment opportunities for future African-American applicants.”

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