On September 23, 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a Complaint in the Central District of Illinois on behalf of female waitresses at Barnhouse Restaurant who allege that they were subjected to sexual harassment such as derogatory and sexual comments, sexual propositions, and inappropriate touching while at work. The Complaint also alleges that the waitresses were fired when they complained to their managers about the sex harassment.
The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which, along with retaliation against those who complain about it, is illegal. The EEOC has filed several cases against restaurant employers who have been accused of sex discrimination. According to the EEOC, the Barnhouse case is “another example of an all too common scenario — female servers and other restaurant workers being targeted for egregious sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is a common problem throughout the United States. The EEOC’s litigation strategy is to hold employers accountable for failing to respond to claims of sex harassment. Restaurants can protect their employees and insulate themselves against sex harassment lawsuits by implementing preventive policies and procedures such as sexual harassment training and establishing an anti-harassment policy which clearly provides an internal method of reporting and responding to sexual harassment complaints.