McCormick & Schmick's agrees to pay $1.3 million in race discrimination case

The owners of two popular restaurants in downtown Baltimore have agreed to pay $1.3 million and establish new hiring measures to settle a years-old lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against black applicants and employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2008 against McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. and Schmick Restaurant Corp., owners of McCormick & Schmick's and M&S; Grill in the Inner Harbor.

The lawsuit claimed the restaurants violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to hire black applicants for front-of-the-house positions such as servers and hostesses.

The companies did not admit to any discrimination or wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was approved last week by U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson.

Eric Janson, an attorney for the companies, declined to comment Monday.

The EEOC celebrated the settlement.

"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," EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said in a statement. "We are pleased we were able to resolve this important case on mutually acceptable terms."

The EEOC will be conducting a claims process in the next 22 months to identify eligible recipients for the $1.3 million, including black applicants and employees of the two restaurants between Jan. 1, 1998 and Jan. 1, 2010.

In addition to the monetary settlement in the two-year consent decree, the restaurants will introduce various measures to ensure diversity in hiring, the EEOC said.

The restaurants will "implement numerical goals for hiring of black job applicants for front-of-the-house positions," begin "targeted recruitment efforts" to attract black applicants and review its job advertisements to avoid giving the impression of racial preference in employees, among other changes.

Under the numerical goals, the restaurants will work to ensure the percentage of black hires for front-of-house positions matches the percentage of applicants who are black, according to the agreement.

The restaurants also will have to report hiring numbers to the EEOC, and the EEOC will be allowed to conduct on-site inspections of the restaurants, according to the decree.

Debra M. Lawrence, another EEOC attorney, said the agency was "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."

Lawrence said the monetary settlement and the revised hiring measures are "designed to promote equal opportunity for black job applicants and workers."

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