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Bowlero Faces Lawsuits from Former Employees Alleging Age Discrimination and Retaliation

Former employees of Bowlero, the world’s largest owner and operator of bowling centers, are planning to sue the company after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) closed its case against Bowlero. The employees claim they were fired based on their age or out of retaliation. Bowlero had been under investigation by the EEOC since 2016, with over 70 former employees alleging unlawful termination.

The employees allege that Bowlero fired them because they were older while the company was in the process of transforming its bowling centers into more upscale venues with better food and drink options. Bowlero denies these claims. The EEOC had found reasonable cause in 58 of the complaints brought against Bowlero, and the rest were still under investigation when the case was closed.

Bowlero recently went public through a special purpose acquisition company and owns two major bowling brands, AMF and Lucky Strike. The company operated over 300 bowling centers across North America as of July. Despite the controversy, Bowlero’s annual revenue nearly tripled between 2021 and 2023, reaching $1.06 billion.

In its fiscal third-quarter earnings release, Bowlero announced that the EEOC had closed its case and would not be pursuing a lawsuit. However, this does not clear the company of wrongdoing, according to the EEOC. Former employees are now able to move forward with their own lawsuits, and their lawyer plans to file a single lawsuit on behalf of more than 70 claimants seeking monetary damages.

The EEOC’s pattern or practice investigation also found that Bowlero had engaged in a systemic issue of age discrimination since at least 2013, a claim that the company denies. When the EEOC finds reasonable cause in a complaint, it means they believe discrimination has occurred, but they do not file a lawsuit in every case due to limited resources.

Efforts to settle the complaints with Bowlero for $60 million in January 2023 were unsuccessful. The company’s attorneys have stated that they will fight any claims filed by former employees.

Age discrimination is considered one of the worst forms of discrimination, as it can have a significant impact on individuals nearing the end of their careers. The attorney representing the claimants emphasized that age discrimination is often overlooked compared to race and gender discrimination.

The former employees have until mid-July to file their lawsuit, seeking $80 million in damages plus legal fees. Bowlero had approximately $212.4 million in available cash and cash equivalents as of March 31.

Bowlero’s attorneys expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the EEOC investigation and stated that they will defeat any claims filed against the company. Another former Bowlero executive’s request to countersue the company for extortion and retaliation was denied in court.

Despite the ongoing legal challenges, Bowlero remains focused on its business and aims to put the EEOC investigation behind them. The company’s executives expressed relief that the case is now closed and no longer a distraction. However, it is clear that the legal battle is not over, as former employees are preparing to take their claims to federal court.

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