Since the 1970's Alex Dana's Rosebud restaurants have been comfortable places for diners seeking hearty Italian entrees. The company operates 10 sites in the Chicago area and employs more than 900 people.
But allegedly, according to a recently filed federal lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rosebud is also a hotbed of racism and discriminatory practices and has been since late 2009.
The EEOC claims the restaurant violated civil rights laws by refusing to hire blacks. It found during its investigation, most Rosebud restaurant locations had no black employees. The EEOC charges that these discriminatory practices have occurred at the 10 current locations as well as three other locations that have been closed.
John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC said the lawsuit seeks compensation for black applicants denied employment, a class of potentially hundreds of people.
Hendrickson alleges that based on interviews with numerous witnesses the restaurant uses slurs when talking about blacks, and also that Dana and other managers have expressed a preference not to hire African Americans. The EEOC claims it has tried “informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion” involving Rosebud, but to no avail.
Rosebud spokesman claims “zero tolerance” for discrimination
A spokesman for Rosebud sites the company's “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, saying it has cooperated with the EEOC. “We have provided them 32,000 job applications and copies of other documents,” the spokesman said. In a separate statement, a spokesperson 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 states they have no reliable data on the racial composition of its work force. A spokesman said the reports are based on information employees provide voluntarily. Many do not fill out the form, he said.
Hendrickson said the company's hiring record was so outrageous as to immediately suggest bias. “There are lame excuses and there are lamer excuses,” he said.
The EEOC has also accused Rosebud of violating federal law by failing to hold onto employment applications for at least a year and by not filing required annual reports with the agency before 2009. These annual reports are required of companies with more than 100 employees. They include information data on workers' job categories, race, ethnicity and gender.