Italian restaurants Basta Pasta in Maryland have been sued for sexual harassment and retaliation. According to the federal court lawsuit filed the by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Maryland restaurants, the owner repeatedly harassed his female workers, some of whom were teenagers, by touching them on their buttocks, lower backs and shoulders, rubbing his genitalia against their buttocks, leering at them and making comments about their bodies, including calling them “sexy” or “hot,” making sexually suggestive remarks and crude sexual innuendos, and asking for massages.
The lawsuit also claims that the owner of the restaurants pressured female employees to have alcoholic drinks at the end of their shifts and, in one instance, gave one female employee so much alcohol that she passed out and later vomited, causing the worker to believe that the owner drugged her in an attempt to sexually assault her. The complaint also alleges that in another instance the owner took another female employee to his house purportedly to talk about a management opportunity. Instead the worker believes she was drugged and sexually assaulted by the restaurant owner. Two workers claim that the sexual harassment was so unbearable that they quit their jobs.
Attorneys for the EEOC claim that the company failed to take corrective measures after the restaurant manager complained about the owner’s sexually offensive behavior and eventually fired her in retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant also threatened the manager when she participated in the EEOC investigation and pressured her to recant her testimony.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and forbids employers from retaliating against employees who make complaints about sexual harassment or discrimination. The EEOC is seeking, among other things, injunctive relief prohibiting Basta Pasta from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.