(Reuters) - Current and former female employees of Ruth's Chris Steak House have sued the company alleging gender discrimination and seeking class-action status.
Last week's filing came after U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Washington, D.C., ruled that a smaller lawsuit alleging gender discrimination against the company could be amended to seek class action status.
The lawsuit had previously been limited to three individual plaintiffs. The class action lawsuit would be on behalf of all female employees at the company's headquarters and restaurants from September 2006 to the present.
The women allege that the restaurant operator conducted a pattern and practice of gender discrimination, including compensating men more than women, subjecting women to sexist comments, and disciplining women more harshly than men.
"The work environment at RCSH is one that is demeaning to women, reflects a culture of male domination and female subjugation, and is a causative factor in the discrimination against women in compensation, promotion, and termination," the lawsuit said.
A spokeswoman for Ruth's Chris was not immediately available for comment.
The company had asked that the original case be dismissed.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to large group lawsuits when it threw out a sex discrimination class action against Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the biggest ever such case.
While Ruth's Chris had argued that this decision should knock out the plaintiffs' ability to file a class action, Rothstein ruled the decision did not apply because the case against Ruth's Chris is at an earlier procedural stage.
The case is Bush v. Ruth's Chris Steak House, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 10-01721.
(Reporting by Carlyn Kolker)