A bowler On Wednesday, company executives spoke publicly for the first time about the sprawling federal discrimination probe the company faces after the company reported another quarter of what it called record growth.
Brett Parker, the company’s outgoing chief financial officer and second in command to CEO Thomas Shannon, was asked about the investigation on the earnings call. The question came about a week after CNBC revealed that authorities wanted $60 million to settle the investigation.
“There’s been a lot of noise here related to the EEOC review and it’s been hanging around here. It seems to have gotten quite a bit of media attention in the last week. Wanted to see if you wanted to comment on that,” Jeremy Craig-Hallum Capital Group analyst Scott Hamblin asked Parker.
Parker responded that the claims in the CNBC report were “completely false” and “we deny them in the strongest possible terms.”
“We have nothing to hide. We have cooperated fully and provided the EEOC with documented information and documents throughout the process,” Parker said.
“Nor has our own thorough investigation of the claims substantiated any evidence of wrongdoing or violation of our policies prohibiting any form of employment discrimination,” he said.
Parker went on to say that the company “does not tolerate situations of discrimination or demeaning.” He insisted that “those are facts,” which is why the company fought so hard to have the claims dismissed.
“Whatever the outcome, it will not materially impact our business or distract us from executing on our strategic priorities. The latest earnings results we are now talking about reflect our unwavering focus and commitment to excellence, “He said.
“At the end of the day, we stand by our positive workplace culture, we stand by our visionary leaders, we stand by our record of producing great people. Other than that, we don’t have much to say.”
Last week, Bowlero’s stock fell 9% in intraday trading after CNBC revealed an investigation that revealed new details about a sprawling U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into the company’s hiring practices. . The stock closed down about 4% for the day.
Parker’s comments mark the first time a Bowlero executive has publicly responded to the EEOC investigation, which has been ongoing since 2016.
When CNBC contacted Bowlero before publishing a report on the investigation, the company declined to make its executives available for interviews. It communicates only through its attorneys and outside press representatives. At times, discussions surrounding the coverage of confidential settlement talks turned hostile when outside press representatives suggested that CNBC reporters could be arrested for publishing information, emphasizing the seriousness of the claims.
Case involves at least 73 former employees who claim they were fired according to their ageor in retaliation, according to the securities filing.
The EEOC found probable cause in 55 of those cases, which led to a larger pattern or practice investigation — a type of investigation the agency initiates when systemic discrimination issues may arise.
The agency found plausible evidence that Bowlero’s discriminatory patterns or practices have existed since at least 2013, which coincided with its expansion from a small chain to a national powerhouse with 329 locations.
Bowlero’s chief executive has been accused of instructing staff to fire aging staff and replace them with candidates deemed young and hip, former employees told the EEOC.
Among employees, the executive was also known for his condescending jokes about women, casual “racially motivated” remarks and negative comments about LGBTQ people, the affidavit said. A former human resources employee told EEOC that some female employees did not publicly disclose their marital status or pregnancy status for fear of losing their jobs.
Bowlero’s lawyers have previously called each of the allegations against Shannon “baseless.”
While it’s not uncommon for a company, especially one the size of Bowlero, to face EEOC complaints from former employees, it’s rare for the EEOC to determine good cause.
Throughout fiscal year 2021, the agency found justification for just 2.8 percent of the thousands of age discrimination allegations it received, according to the most recent data available.
The EEOC recently tried to settle the charges for $60 million, but talks fell apart when Bowlero countered with $500,000, said Daniel Dowe, an attorney who represented more than 70 former employees who filed claims against the company.
Experts have previously said the case is now expected to go to court, at which point Bowlero could face tougher fines.