Florida Gentlemen’s Club Settles Sex Discrimination Claim After Refusing to Hire a Male Bartender
On December 10th, 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Gold, Inc. agreed to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit for $20,000. Operating as Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club in North Florida, the company allegedly refused to even consider hiring a male applicant for the position of bartender.
This case should serve as an important reminder that a company’s perception that its customers prefer a certain type of employee is not a blanket defense against a discrimination claim. Here, our Miami employment law attorneys provide an overview of the EEOC’s settlement and we explain what employers need to know about discrimination and customer preferences.
Allegations: A Male Bartender Was Refused Job Application
According to the press release from the EEOC, a man attempted to apply for an open bartender position at Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. When he asked for an application, he was straightforwardly denied an opportunity to apply. A manager at Gold, Inc. told the man that the company simply does not hire male bartenders at this location.
In response, the EEOC filed a gender discrimination complaint against the company in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Before the trial could commence, all parties were able to reach a settlement. Among other things, the company agreed to pay $20,000 and it agreed to amend its hiring practices going forward to ensure compliance with all applicable workplace discrimination laws.
Federal Law: Perceived Customer Preference Does Not Justify Gender Discrimination
The initial defense raised by the company in this case is one that has been raised several times before: The customers prefer female bartenders, therefore the company only hires female bartenders.
Florida employers should know that regulators do not consider this to be a valid defense against a gender discrimination claim. As noted by an attorney for the EEOC, a customer’s perceived “preference” for employees of a particular gender does not, in itself, justify sex or gender discrimination.
The EEOC views this type of discrimination similar to how it would view racial discrimination. As an example, a South Florida employer cannot refuse to consider African American employees based solely on the fact that the company perceives its customers as preferring white employers. That would be racial discrimination.
Companies that have a blanket policy not to hire employees of a certain protected class—whether it is women, men, or any other protected characteristic—are at a very serious risk of facing liability through an employment discrimination lawsuit.
Call Our Miami Employment Lawyers for Immediate Assistance
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida employment discrimination attorneys have the experience needed to handle all types of gender and sex discrimination cases. To find out more about what our legal team can do for you or your company, please call us right away. With a law office in Miami and law office West Palm Beach, we represent employers and employees throughout the region, including in Broward County and Martin County.