Hallandale Beach dating company to pay $900,000 for not hiring male sales reps

Oh, boy! It will cost $900,000 for a Hallandale Beach-based dating service to settle a federal sex discrimination lawsuit that it refused to hire men as sales representatives.

It’s Just Lunch, a worldwide matchmaking company founded more than 20 years ago, wouldn’t even consider hiring males to fix up single men and women, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Miami.

The company believed its customers would prefer to speak with women sales reps.

“From our investigation, It’s Just Lunch took the position that men as a group weren’t suited to do this,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC. “The really important message is that the sexual stereotyping of men and women violates the law.” The company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the settlement, which was approved Friday in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s Just Lunch opened a Hallandale Beach corporate office in 2007. The next year, Lynda Twist became its human resources director. In Jan. 2009, Twist told the company’s senior executives that she opposed the no-male policy. Within two days, according to the lawsuit, Twist was fired.

She then brought a complaint to the EEOC. “Ms. Twist suffered degradation, humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life and loss of earnings,” according to the suit. Twist will receive $130,369 from the $900,000 settlement.

The rest will go to a fund for the men who didn’t get jobs. Several thousand applied for sales positions through CareerBuilder and other online job websites.

It’s unknown how many qualified men might have been hired had their applications been processed. Most probably never knew why they didn’t get jobs, Weisberg said. “Many of the male applicants who were potential class members weren’t aware of the reason they weren’t offered employment,” he said.

Title VII narrowly allows for certain jobs (washroom attendant or Hooters Girl, for example) to be held by one sex or the other if gender is a “bona fide occupational qualification.” Dating sales rep is not one of those jobs, Weisberg said.

Monday afternoon, the It’s Just Lunch website had gone offline. “We have matched tens of thousands of single professionals and arranged over 2 million first dates,” according a cached version of the company’s website. “You can find It’s Just Lunch worldwide from New York to Los Angeles and from Singapore to Ireland.”

Also Monday, the company’s local attorney, Thomas Allen Groendyke of Sunrise, was out of the office and unavailable to answer questions.

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