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McCormick & Schmick’s to Pay $1.3 Million and Provide Significant Injunctive Relief to Resolve EEOC Class Race Discrimination Suit

Two Baltimore Restaurants Subjected Black Workers to Discrimination in Hiring and Work Assignments, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE - McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, Inc. and McCormick and Schmick Restaurant Corporation will pay $1.3 million and provide significant equitable relief to settle a pattern-or-practice race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in 2008, charging that McCormick & Schmick's engaged in a pattern or practice of race discrimination against African-American job applicants by refusing to hire them for front-of-the-house positions at its two Baltimore locations, McCormick & Schmick's and M&S Grill, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC further alleged that black front-of-house workers hired at the two Baltimore restaurants were denied equal work assignments because of their race. In addition, the EEOC charged that McCormick & Schmick's advertising for job opportunities on its website had previously contained visual depictions of employees that expressed a preference for non-black workers to the ordinary reader.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (EEOC v. McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, Inc. and McCormick and Schmick Restaurant Corporation, Civil Action No. WMN-09-CV-984), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit was settled by the parties prior to any adjudication by the federal court with the assistance of U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey, who served as the mediator.

"Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the EEOC remains as firmly committed to combating race discrimination in the workplace as the day we opened our doors," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez.  "We are pleased we were able to resolve this important case on mutually acceptable terms."

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. said, "The EEOC is committed to combating unlawful race discrimination in the workplace and to making sure that employment decisions are based on individual merit and qualifications for the job."

The consent decree settling the suit establishes a claims fund in the amount of $1.3 million for eligible claimants who consist of two groups:

  • black persons who sought employment as a server, cocktail server, busser, hostess/host and/or bartender at either or both of the two Baltimore restaurants at any time during the period of Jan. 1, 1998 to Jan. 1, 2010; and
  • black persons who were employed in the positions of server, cocktail server, busser, hostess/host and/or bartender at either of the two Baltimore restaurants at any time during the same period.

The EEOC will be conducting a claims process over the next 22 months to identify eligible claimants and determine awards.

In addition to the monetary claims fund, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins McCormick & Schmick's from engaging in race discrimination or retaliation and provides substantial non-monetary relief.

Among other things, McCormick & Schmick's will:

  • implement numerical goals for hiring of black job applicants for front-of-the-house positions at the two Baltimore locations;
  • implement targeted recruitment efforts to attract black job applicants at the two Baltimore locations;
  • review its job advertisements to make certain they do not violate Title VII's prohibitions against expressing intended or unintended preferences because of race;
  • conduct extensive self-assessment of hiring and work assignment practices to ensure non-discrimination and compliance with the terms of the consent decree;
  • designate a decree compliance monitor for oversight of compliance with the requirements of the consent decree; and
  • submit reports to the EEOC concerning numerical hiring goals and other consent decree compliance issues.

EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "We are very pleased that McCormick & Schmick's worked with us and the federal court mediator to craft a comprehensive settlement that will benefit all employees and applicants. In addition to the monetary compensation for the class members, the extensive programmatic measures are designed to promote equal opportunity for black job applicants and workers."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The Baltimore Field Office of the EEOC has responsibility for Maryland and is a component of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website,