Red Lobster Restaurant subjected female employees to egregious sexual harassment including grabbing and groping, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC alleged that the restaurant’s then culinary manager subjected Valerie Serman, Racheal Cox and a class of similarly situated female employees to longstanding sexual harassment including pressing his groin against them, and groping them. The EEOC further alleged in the lawsuit that the manager made sexually offensive comments, such as frequent remarks about the bodies of female employees and about his genitals.
According to the EEOC, Red Lobster failed to take prompt action to stop the sexual harassment even though the offensive conduct and comments were blatant and pervasive. Serman also complained to her general manager about the harassment, but he not only failed to act, but also had a history of making vulgar and sexually charged remarks about female employees himself, the lawsuit claimed.
Subjecting employees to a sexually hostile work environment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the Red Lobster from engaging in sexual harassment, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Serman, Cox and the class of female employees, and other affirmative relief.
Darden Restaurants, Inc. and its subsidiaries have been sued in Florida for minimum wage, overtime, and other pay violations. Darden owns approximately 1,900 restaurants across the United States, including The Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
In a Complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, servers who worked at several Longhorn Steakhouse locations in Florida and at an Olive Garden in Georgia allege that the restaurants failed to pay their employees for all hours worked by forcing their workers to clock in and out after their shifts actually began and before their workday ended and failed to properly maintain accurate employee time records. The workers also allege that restaurants failed to pay them overtime at the rate of one and one-half times their hourly rate of pay for all hours worked over forty. In addition, the employees allege that the restaurants required their waitstaff to perform side work which exceeded twenty percent of their time at work and therefore were not entitled to pay their waiters and waitresses a “tipped” minimum wage below the regular minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Lawyers for the workers also allege that similar pay violations occurred at different locations and brand restaurants centrally owned and operated by Darden and its subsidiaries throughout Florida and the United States. Last year, Joseph Fitapelli of Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP, Maimon Kirschenbaum of Joseph and Kirschenbaum LLP, and Louis Pechman of Berke-Weiss & Pechman LLP (and founder of waiterpay.com), filed a lawsuit on behalf of waiters at Capital Grille alleging similar violations. That lawsuit is still pending in New York federal court.