In case you haven’t seen this on the web or your local news,Darden Restaurants the mega food corporation with 2,000 restaurants nationwide including Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 and annual sales of $7.5 billion is under fire and being sued because of alleged racial discrimination in hiring, wages and promotion.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United filed a lawsuit January 31 against Darden’s Capital Grille in federal court in Chicago on behalf of workers in Chicago, New York and Washington, saying the company discriminates against workers. The biggest beef, excuse the pun, is about the Capital Grille Steakhouse. According to the complaint, jobs such as dish washer and food preparer are given to people of color, while positions such as servers and bartenders, where customer tips are common, went to white applicants. Capital Grille is billed as their upscale establishment where tips make a big difference in earning capacity.
Darden Inc. has long pointed to its CEO, Clarence Otis, with pride as a minority who started at the bottom and worked his way up. I guess he should have been at the top. Otis graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in economics and political science. From there he went on to Stanford Law. Otis might have been busing dishes in high school or something but I don’t consider a resume including his education as an exhibit of a man who worked his way out of the kitchen. Matter of fact Otis was recruited by Darden Restaurants in Orlando for the post of treasurer, overseeing finance activities for the 1,200-restaurant chain in 1995. That position is not exactly dishwashing.
Fortune 500 called Darden “a diversity champion,”noting that 30 % of restaurants’ managers are minorities and 41% are women. So what’s the real deal? I’m waiting to find out.
Not that I am a fan of Red Lobster and I don’t even consider Olive Garden Italian fare (more like fair American pseudo Italian) so boycotting the chain won’t be an issue. I do hope though, that this company with an accomplished black man at the helm, will either be proven not-guilty or will make it right for all its employees.