CHICAGO (AP) _ The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against a popular Chicago-based restaurant chain for allegedly rarely hiring black job applications, and the agency says the company’s founder and some managers used racial slurs.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court alleges that Rosebud Restaurants Inc. is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for failing or refusing to hire African-Americans based on their race.

The lawsuit contends that Alex Dana, the founder and owner of Rosebud, “has expressed a preference not to hire black job applicants” and that “few black individuals” work there. As of 2012, many of the restaurants had no black employees at all, the EEOC. The agency also said in a statement that Dana and some managers “used racial slurs to refer to black people.”

In a statement, Rosebud emphatically denied the allegations, saying that it does not and will not “tolerate discrimination of any type” toward employees or job applicants.

“For more than 35 years, Rosebud Restaurants has proudly served the Chicagoland community with more than 900 current employees,” Rosebud said. “We consider it our mission to treat our employees as family _ with honesty and respect _ and we are proud of our employment record and the diversity of our workplace.”

The company also said it believes it will be vindicated.

Named in the lawsuit are several restaurants in and around Chicago. In Chicago, the restaurants include Carmine’s, Rosebud on Rush, Bar Umbriago, Ristorante Centro. The suburban restaurants include Rosebud Italian Country House and Pizzeria in Deerfield, Rosebud Burger and Comfort Foods in Naperville, Rosebud of Highland Park and Rosebud Old World Italian in Schaumburg.

The EEOC that said after a woman alleged discrimination in hiring at the chain, the commission conducted an investigation and, according to the lawsuit, concluded that Rosebud “failed to recruit and hire African-Americans.” In a statement, the EEOC said an investigation revealed the use of racial slurs by Dana and some managers.

The EEOC also said it sued after meeting with Rosebud and failing to reach an agreement. The lawsuit is seeking back pay for employees as well as compensation for black applicants who were not hired by the chain. The EEOC is also asking for an injunction barring future discrimination and “other relief to prevent future discrimination.”