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Dave Olson, Published October 13 2011

Texas Roadhouse accused of age discrimination

FARGO – Texas Roadhouse, a national restaurant chain with locations in North Dakota and Minnesota, is accused in a federal lawsuit of discriminating against prospective em­ployees based on age.

The suit filed in federal court in Boston by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims the discrimination has been ongoing since January 2007.

It alleges that less than 2 percent of the chain’s most visible workers, known as “front of the house” employees, are 40 or older, a percentage the suit describes as well below the protected age group’s representation within the general population and also well below the protected group’s representation within the restaurant industry.

Officials at the Texas Roadhouse in Fargo declined comment, referring questions to the company’s headquarters in Kentucky.

Company spokesman Travis Doster said the restaurant chain denies the EEOC allegations.

“Texas Roadhouse re­mains committed to offering equal employment opportunities to all applicants,” Doster said.

There are Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks in North Dakota and in St. Cloud, Duluth and Coon Rapids in Minnesota, according to the company website.

Last year, the Fargo Texas Roadhouse was voted best restaurant in the Fargo-Moorhead area by Forum readers, and it also took first place in the best steaks category.

The EEOC lawsuit claims company officials have told older unsuccessful applicants across the nation things like: “We are looking for people on the younger side … but you have a lot of experience,” and, “How do you feel about working with younger people?”

“Applicants rarely know that they have been denied a job because of their age,” said Mark Penzel, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Boston office.

“When the commission uncovers such evidence, it will act aggressively to remedy the violation,” he added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555