Retaliation

Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp

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The New York City Bar Association will hold the CLE program “Opening A Restaurant in New York: Legal Issue Boot Camp” on March 24. The program will focus on the corporate, real estate, liquor license, and labor/employment issues involved in opening a restaurant in New York City. Speakers on the panel include Jack Gordon, partner at Kent, Beatty & Gordon LLP; Carolyn Richmond, partner at Fox Rothschild LLP; Sonal Shah, General Counsel of Ark Restaurant Group; Alex Victor, partner at Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron LLP; and Larry A. Welch, Associate at Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP.  Lou Pechman will be chairing the event. For more information on the program please visit the event page.

Texas Roadhouse to Pay $1.4M to Settle Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit

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A Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Columbus, Ohio will pay $1.4 million to settle a class sexual harassment suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC had charged the restaurant with victimizing a group of female employees as young as 17 years old by subjecting them to sexual harassment and then retaliating against them for complaining.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, the manager of the restaurant in the Reynoldsburg section of Columbus, Eric Price, harassed women and teen girls working in server, hostess and other front-of-the-house positions. In the suit, EEOC identified 12 victims of his abuse who suffered unwelcome touching, humiliating remarks about their and other females’ bodies and sexuality, and pressure for sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits or as a condition of avoiding adverse employment action. EEOC charged that the harassment began in 2007, continued for over three and a half years until the manager was fired in May 2011, and was coupled with retaliation against employees who opposed the abuse.

Although the companies’ owners and individuals with high-level authority received multiple complaints about the manager’s abusive conduct throughout his employment, they failed to take prompt, effective action to put a stop to the abuse, EEOC said. Price was not fired until May 2011, when he was seen on a surveillance video touching a 17-year-old female employee in his office at the restaurant during work hours, the agency charged.

Harassment and discrimination based on sex violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also forbids employers from firing or otherwise retaliating against an employee because she complained about discriminatory conduct. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. East Columbus Host, LLC d/b/a Texas Roadhouse and Ultra Steak, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-1696) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

On Sept. 2, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham issued an order denying East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak’s motion for summary judgment on EEOC’s sexual harassment claims. He found that EEOC had presented sufficient evidence to overcome the motion. In rejecting the employers’ argument that they had established an affirmative defense because some of Price’s victims allegedly delayed or failed to complain, Judge Graham held that questions remained regarding the companies’ efforts to stop any sexually harassing behavior.

Referring to evidence that previous complaints had been made against the restaurant manager, the court noted that EEOC had described a pattern of complaints, including evidence that “less than a month into his tenure, Price made sexual remarks to … [a] high school-aged hostess … [who] did complain, and the only response she got was not from the corporate office, but from the very person she feared: Eric Price,” who told her “not to get other people involved if she had a problem.” A jury, Judge Graham held, “could see this as the first failure in a long line of tepid responses in the face of near-constant complaints, bookended by sexual harassment of teenage girls.” The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that EEOC had failed to conciliate its claims against them as required by Title VII.

In addition to the $1.4 million in monetary relief to the victims, the five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires the companies to offer reinstatement to injured women identified by EEOC in agreed locations and positions. The decree prohibits the companies from rehiring the offending manager.

The decree further requires East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak to put in place an electronic recordkeeping system to track all gender discrimination and retaliation complaints of any kind and includes mandatory reporting of any allegedly discriminatory or retaliatory adverse employment action, such as failure to hire or promote.

Further, the companies must provide training to all employees on discrimination and retaliation. Supervisory, management, and human resources personnel are to be trained on their duty to monitor the work environment; how to receive and investigate complaints of harassment or discrimination; and how to respond to complaints effectively with corrective action. East Columbus Host and Ultra Steak also are required to report to EEOC on how they handle any internal complaints of gender discrimination or retaliation, and they must post a notice about the settlement at all restaurants covered by the decree.

EEOC recently updated its [email protected] website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/), which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination. The website also contains curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities in the workforce.

Dunkin’ Donuts Charged With Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

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A Dunkin Donuts store manager tormented young female staff and terminated a worker who opposed sexual harassment according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit claims that a franchisee of Dunkin’ Donuts with multiple stores and one office/kitchen in Westchester County, N.Y., subjected young female workers to sexual harassment by a manager since at least 2011. The lawsuit charged the company with unlawfully firing a female worker for opposing the sexual harassment and calling the police. According to EEOC’s suit against Hillcrest Marshall, Inc., the store manager’s harassment included making sexual comments and propositions, such as saying almost daily that he wanted to have a “threesome” with the women, many of whom were in their teens. The manager talked about his genitals, tried to kiss a female worker, and pressured a female worker to have sex. Frustrated with one worker’s rejection of his sexual advances, the manager smacked her face, cursed and yelled at her regularly and sent her home several times in the middle of her shift. When she contacted the police, she was fired.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not subject employees to a hostile work environment because of sex and cannot retaliate against employees for resisting or making complaints. The lawsuit seeks monetary relief for the affected workers, as well as relief meant to remedy and prevent future harassment or retaliation at the company. In his comments about the sex harassment lawsuit New York District Director Kevin Berry stated, “It took a great deal of courage for these young women to come forward and speak up against the manager who had power over their livelihood. Employers need to implement strong policies so that victims can report sexual harassment without reprisal.” The EEOC trial attorney assigned to the case added that, “Targeting teenaged female workers is especially inexcusable. Our most vulnerable workers must be protected against sexual advances at work.”

Sex Harassment Case Filed Against Johnny Utah’s Restaurant

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Johnny Utah’s has been hit with a complaint alleging sexual harassment, as well as minimum wage and overtime violations, tip theft, and spread of hours violations of the New York Labor Law and Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Complaint, filed on behalf of eight waitress at against Johnny Utah’s Rockefeller Center location in New York federal court, alleges the Midtown restaurant, which is advertised as a “wild west party” and known for its mechanical bull, subjected its female servers to unwanted sexual conduct such as inappropriate touching, comments, and propositions. The lawsuit alleges that among other things, servers were expected to flirt with patrons, ride the bar’s mechanical bull shirtless, and kiss other female servers. The waitresses and bartenders were expected to take shots with and sit on the laps of male customers and were told to ignore any unwanted touching. Any employee who complained was assigned fewer shifts or was terminated.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the servers did not receive the minimum wage, overtime, and “spread of hours” pay they were lawfully entitled to receive. According to the lawsuit, employees regularly worked 60 to 70 hours per week but were only paid for 40 hours of work. Servers also were required to share their tips with managers and their tip money was often withheld to cover cash register shortages.

Lawyers for the workers are seeking to recover minimum wages, overtime compensation, spread-of-hours pay, misappropriated tips, uniform-related expenses, unlawful deductions, compensatory damages, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Benihana Sued For Wage Pay Violations and Unlawful Retaliation

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A former chef at a Benihana restaurant in Florida has sued the popular restaurant chain alleging that the restaurant forces its chefs to work without pay, failed to pay overtime, and unlawfully shared the chefs’ tips with non-tipped employees.

The Complaint, filed in Florida federal court, claims that the company illegally deducts money from the chef’s tips to share them with employees who are not entitled to receive tips.  The lawsuit also claims that the restaurant denies its chefs overtime pay.  The former chef alleges that the company harassed him after he complained about the illegal pay practices and he was ultimately forced to quit because the employer had made working conditions unbearable.

The lawsuit seeks lost wages, reinstatement, retaliation damages and attorneys’ fees as a result of the workers rights violations.

This National Waiters and Waitresses Day Know Your Rights!

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Today is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. Check out our blog featured in the Huffington Post!

Burger King Sex Harassment Lawsuit Settles for $2.5 Million

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The world’s largest Burger King franchisee, Carols Corporation, will pay $2.5 million and take significant remedial steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit alleged discrimination against 89 female employees around the country, many of whom were teenagers when they worked for Burger King.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Carrols Corporation, which operates nearly 600 Burger King restaurants in the United States, subjected a class of women to egregious sexual harassment at Burger King locations throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. The EEOC alleged that the harassment, which ranged from obscene comments, jokes, and propositions to unwanted touching, exposure of genitalia, strip searches, stalking, and even rape, was perpetrated by managers in the majority of cases. According to the EEOC, Carrols also retaliated against some of the women by cutting their hours, manufacturing discipline against them, and even firing them, while it forced more women to quit because the harassment made their working conditions intolerable.

Under the terms of the consent decree resolving the case, Carrols will pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and lost wages to the 89 victims. It also will implement a number of measures to increase employees’ awareness of Carrols’ anti-harassment policies and to improve Carrols’ response to complaints brought forward under those policies. Those measures include enhanced training for Carrols’ managers in preventing and responding to harassment, improved mechanisms for tracking harassment complaints, notices posted in all domestic Carrols Burger King locations informing employees about the lawsuit’s resolution and their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, and an injunction prohibiting further harassment and retaliation.

Señor Frog’s Restaurant Sued By EEOC For Rampant Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Señor Frog’s, a popular chain of Mexican-themed restaurants and bars, violated federal law by allowing the rampant sexual harassment of its female employees in Honolulu by high-level officials including the company owner, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Also named in the EEOC lawsuit was Altres, Inc., a Hawaiian staffing company, that was contracted by Señor Frog’s to provide human resources services and oversee the company’s non-management staff at the Señor Frog’s restaurant & bar in Honolulu.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC asserts that at least nine female servers and bartenders were repeatedly bombarded with sexual propositions, explicit sexual remarks, groping, grabbing, and exposure of genital areas by male managers, and even ordered to perform sexual favors for high-level Señor Frog officials.  The lawsuit also charges that women were being passed over for promotions, were given less favorable shifts, and earned less than their male counterparts.

Attorneys for the EEOC contend that at least one of the waitresses who was a victim of the sex harassment was compelled to quit as a result of the sex harassment, while others were disciplined or had their hours cut in retaliation for complaining of the harassment and discrimination.  As the joint employer, the EEOC claims that Altres is also liable for the hostile work environment endured by the Señor Frog’s staff, many of whom were (on paper) employed by Altres, according to company records.

According to the company’s website, Señor Frog’s operates restaurants in 15 tourist destinations in Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean.  Altres, Inc. claims to be Hawaii’s largest locally owned staffing company, and provides outsourced human resources support services to businesses throughout Hawaii, employing over 5,000 people.

Panda Express Restaurant Sued for Rampant Sexual Harassment

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A Panda Express restaurant, part of the giant Chinese fast-food chain, subjected a class of female employees, including teenagers, to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed in Hawaii on September 26, 2012.

According to the EEOC, a male supervisor at the Panda Express in Kapaa, Kauai, sexually abused at least three female teenagers starting in 2008 and likely several more.  At least one of the teen workers was physically groped and subjected to lewd language and obscene sexual propositions repeatedly.  Upon reporting the harassment to the general manager, the EEOC said, the teen’s hours were cut in retaliation, forcing her to resign.  Another teen victim was also forced to quit to avoid persistent verbal obscenities and sexual advances by the same supervisor.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  EEOC attorneys are seeking all available relief including lost wages, front pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of the class of women.  Substantial remedies including policy changes and staff training are also being sought by the EEOC in order to prevent and to appropriately address future instances of sexual harassment, discrimin­ation and retaliation.

Owner of 25 McDonald’s Restaurants to Pay $1 Million in EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

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The owner and franchisee of 25 McDonald’s restaurants has agreed to pay $1,000,000 and provide substantial injunctive relief to resolve a class sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Missoula Mac violated federal civil rights laws at its Reedsburg, Wis., McDonald’s by permitting male employees to create a hostile work environment of sexual harassment against female co-workers, some of whom were teenagers, and by retaliating against those who complained about sexual harassment.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, since at least 2006, several male employees at the restaurant subjected female co-workers to sexual harassment, including sexual comments, kissing, touching of their private areas, and forcing their hands onto the men’s private parts.  Despite being notified of the situation, Missoula Mac failed and refused to take prompt and appropriate action to correct the harassment and the resulting hostile environment, forcing at least one of the harassed employees to quit.  Further, the company fired other harassed employees after they complained repeatedly about their co-workers’ behavior.  Three women previously employed at the Reedsburg McDonald’s filed discrimination charges with the EEOC that led to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb entered a four-year consent decree resolving the suit.  Under its terms, Missoula Mac will pay out $1 million in compensatory damages to 10 former employees who experienced sexual harassment and retaliation during their employment at the Reedsburg McDonald’s.  The company will also (1) create an ombudsperson position responsible for monitoring, soliciting and resolving complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation; (2) establish telephone and e-mail hotlines for employees to report sexual harassment or retaliation; (3) evaluate its managers’ and supervisors’ performance based in part on whether their restaurants comply with anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws and policies; (4) track and maintain records of all sexual harassment and retaliation complaints; (5) implement a comprehensive training program to enable its employees to identify sexual harassment and properly investigate internal complaints; (6) post notices at all its restaurants informing employees that it has settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit with the EEOC and publicizing some settlement terms; and (7) provide periodic reports to the EEOC showing it is complying with the terms of the decree.

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