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Friday, July 26, 2013

Suing Cupid

By: Tommy Eden

It's Just Lunch USA LLC (IJL), the matchmaking service, last week reached a $900,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case where it was accused of refusing to hire male applicants for sales and dating director positions. The service sells memberships and provides the services of matching members and coordinating introductions between members. Inside Sales Directors and Dating Directors match and coordinate introductions between members.

Beginning early in her career as Human Resources Director Linda Twist was told by the IJL Chief Executive Officer and its Director of Sales & Training that “women were better-suited for the Inside Sales Representative and Dating Director positions because clients preferred to interact with women.” Twist expressed her opposition to the policy or practice of not hiring men as Inside Sales Representatives or Dating Directors.

In January 2009, IJL underwent a change in its senior management and Twist met with IJL’s new Chairman and the incoming Chief Executive Officer where she again expressed her opposition to IJL’s discriminatory policy or practice of not hiring men. Two days later Twist was terminated from her employment with IJL.

Twist then filed her EEOC Charge claiming that the company did not hire any male inside sales representatives and dating directors and that she was fired in retaliation for her opposition to this unlawful discriminatory practice. The EEOC took on Twist’s cause and filed suit in federal District Court in Florida.

Two days after suit was filed, IJL signed a consent decree to settle all claims, with Twist to receive $130,659, the amount she would've earned if she had not been terminated. Most of the remaining money is to be distributed to men who had applied for the jobs at the company's Hallandale Beach, Fla., office but were allegedly passed up because of their gender. The Federal Court consent decree also included a provision that IJL would be under the supervision of the EEOC for three years.

Common Sense Counsel: Even Cupid is not immune from gender discrimination lawsuits by the EEOC. IJL must now reform its hiring practices and keep detailed records of its job applicants and new hires. The decree requires that “IJL shall hire the best qualified candidates identified through the interview process and its hiring decisions shall be based on nondiscriminatory criteria." IJL agreed to set up an electronic system tracking its job applicants and how they were screened, and to perform a quarterly review of its "applicant flow" and new hires to be shared with the EEOC and evaluated for compliance with the agreement’s terms. Effective, Defensible and Legally Compliant Hiring Procedures are not sexy but will deflect the EEOC’s arrows.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901.

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