Sparks Steak House, widely regarded as one of the best steakhouses in New York City, will pay $600,000 and take other steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, 22 male waiters at the restaurant were subjected to harassment based on their sex, chiefly by one male manager, over a nearly eight-year period. The alleged misconduct included the manager groping the buttocks of the male waiters, making lewd sexual comments and attempting to touch their genitals. Many of the waiters complained to other managers and Sparks’ owners, but the harassment did not stop. Some victims of harassment suffered retaliation for complaining by being given more difficult work assignments and/or ultimately being suspended.
In addition to paying the $600,000 in damages to be distributed among the waiters, the restaurant must prohibit further sexual harassment and retaliation. The settlement also requires the restaurant to: 1) establish a complaint hotline for reporting incidents of discrimination; 2) distribute an amended policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation to all employees; 3) conduct anti-discrimination training for employees; 4) post a public notice about the settlement; and 5) report all sexual harassment and/or retaliation complaints to the EEOC.
Louis Pechman, founder of waiterpay.com, filed the original EEOC Charge which led to the EEOC’s class action lawsuit. Pechman previously served as attorney for the waiters at Sparks in a record $3.15 million settlement for misappropriated tips.