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EEOC Finds “Reasonable Cause” For Age Discrimination Claims Against Bowlero

Since 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been investigating Bowlero. The company is the world's largest owner and operator of bowling centers, per CNBC. At least 73 former employees allege Bowlero fired them because of their age or in retaliation for complaints. Bowlero disclosed this information in recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Bowlero also shared that the EEOC made reasonable cause determinations in 55 instances and made a "pattern or practice" finding on age discrimination. These claims go back as far as 2013. CNBC reported that the EEOC found reasonable cause in just 2.8% of its age discrimination cases in 2021, which is consistent with prior years and suggests the claims against Bowlero are significant.

Former employees say Bowlero CEO Thomas Shannon hosts "obvious beauty contests" with prospective hires over video calls, evaluating each candidate's appearance. These evaluations included lower-level, customer-facing roles throughout the company's 300 bowling centers. Some of these employees assert Shannon directed Bowlero staff to replace older employees with candidates perceived as “young, hip, and attractive.” Employment data supplied to the EEOC shows that the company removed 287 managers from 351 bowling centers from 2013 to 2105. The senior managers who survived allegedly received pressure to replace longtime staffers because "they were too old" and the company wanted "fresh young faces." Employees also made allegations of discrimination based on race, LGBTQ status, and motherhood.

Bowlero denied the allegations of discrimination in response to a request for comment by CNBC. In its SEC filings, Bowlero informed investors about the EEOC findings and affirmed its intention to defend against these claims “vigorously.” The EEOC is proposing a $60 million settlement of the claims. Negotiations between the EEOC and Bowlero failed, so EEOC's general counsel is now considering whether to continue pursuing enforcement action.