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EEOC claims Rosebud restaurants discriminate against blacks in hiring

Rosebud restaurant  |  Sun-Times files

Rosebud restaurant | Sun-Times files

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Updated: October 20, 2013 7:42AM

Since the 1970s, Alex Dana’s Rosebud restaurants have been comfortable, well-appointed places for hearty Italian entrees and steaks, served to diners who want to be well-fed and well-seen.

But a federal agency has charged that Rosebud also is allegedly a bastion of racism.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a federal lawsuit Tuesday that Rosebud violated civil rights laws by refusing to hire blacks. It said that during its investigation, most Rosebud locations had no black employees.

Dana and other managers have expressed a preference not to hire African Americans, the EEOC said. The agency’s probe also found that they used slurs when talking about blacks, said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC.

He said the allegations are based on interviews with numerous witnesses. The lawsuit seeks compensation for black applicants denied employment, a class of potentially hundreds of people, Hendrickson said.

The suit was filed Tuesday and assigned to U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen. In its complaint, the EEOC said it tried “informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion” involving Rosebud, but to no avail.

A spokesman for Rosebud said the company has “zero tolerance” for discrimination and has cooperated with the EEOC. “We have provided them 32,000 job applications and copies of other documents,” the spokesman said.

The company, Rosebud Restaurants Inc., operates 10 sites in the Chicago area and employs more than 900 people.

In a separate statement, Rosebud said, “We consider it our mission to treat our employees as a family — with honesty and respect — and we are proud of our employment record and the diversity of our work force.”

The company spokesman, who asked not to be named, said Rosebud has no reliable data on the racial composition of its work force.

Hendrickson said the company’s hiring record was so egregious as to immediately suggest bias. “There are lame excuses and there are lamer excuses,” he said of the company’s response.

The EEOC charged that discriminatory practices at the restaurants have occurred at least since Nov. 4, 2009. Its complaint covers the 10 current locations and three others that have been closed.

It also accused Rosebud of violating federal law by failing to hold employment applications for at least a year and by not filing annual reports with the agency before 2009.

The reports, required of companies with more than 100 employees, include data on workers’ job categories, race, ethnicity and gender.

The Rosebud spokesman said the reports are based on information employees provide voluntarily. Many do not fill out the form, he said.

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