By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Texas Roadhouse Inc agreed to pay $12 million to settle U.S. claims that the steakhouse chain refused to hire people age 40 and over to work as hosts, servers and bartenders.
A consent decree resolving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's lawsuit against the Louisville, Kentucky-based chain was filed on Friday with the U.S. District Court in Boston.
It resolves claims that Texas Roadhouse violated federal laws against age discrimination by making it "standard operating procedure" to reject older applicants for customer-facing, "front-of-the-house" jobs.
The EEOC said this included an emphasis at training meetings at its headquarters on hiring "young, fun, cute, and bubbly people" to promote Texas Roadhouse's culture and image.
Payouts will go to older job applicants who were wrongfully turned away between 2007 and 2014.
Texas Roadhouse has more than 520 restaurants in 49 U.S. states and six foreign countries, according to its website.
The company denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle the lawsuit, which began in September 2011.
A nearly four-week trial ended last month with a hung jury, and a retrial had been scheduled for May 15.
Texas Roadhouse did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The consent decree lasts for 3-1/2 years, requires increased recruitment and hiring of older applicants, the appointment of a diversity director and a monitor to oversee compliance with the decree, and better training.
It was signed by Texas Roadhouse's general counsel, and approved on Friday by U.S. District Judge Denise Casper.
The case is EEOC v Texas Roadhouse Inc et al, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 11-11732.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)