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.
A former manager of Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, a restaurant co-owned by Paula Deen, has filed a lawsuit against the celebrity cook, accusing her of condoning an atmosphere of sexual harassment and race discrimination in her restaurant. The Savannah-based oyster house is co-owned by Deen and her brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers. Paula Deen is the star of two Food Network shows and the best-selling author of cookbooks that have sold more than 8 million copies.
The Complaint brought by Lisa T. Jackson alleges racist behavior by Hiers, including accusations that he physically intimidated employees, displayed pornography at work, made offensive comments to the staff regarding their weight, and acted toward Jackson in a sexually degrading manner including forcibly kissing her cheek and spitting on her and repeatedly using racial epithets.
Jackson, a white woman who managed a number African American employees, claims that over the course of five years, she made “numerous and frequent” complaints of racial and sexual harassment and other abusive treatment to Deen and others in her restaurant group’s upper management, but they declined to act, even though the conduct was “universally known.” Lawyers for Jackson allege that, during a conversation regarding Hiers’ 2007 wedding, Deen stated that she wanted “a true Southern plantation-style wedding,” and using a racial epithet, suggested the waitstaff wear, “long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around… Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.” Additionally, the complaint alleges that African American employees were not permitted to use the customer bathroom, and were required to use the back entrance of the restaurant for all purposes.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and attorneys’ fees.
Hurricane Grill and Wings restaurant in Royal Palm Beach, Florida will pay $200,000 to settle a class sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of the restaurant’s waitresses, according to a Consent Decree filed with the United States District Court of Florida for the Southern District of Florida.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that the company violated federal law when it permitted a class of female servers to be sexually harassed by a customer, a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy. Later, the EEOC said, the company fired a female server after management learned she had hired a private attorney to assist her in filing an EEOC complaint.
The case against Hurricane Grill and Wings alleged that the servers were frequently grabbed on their breasts and buttocks and humiliated by sexual innuendo, as well as by direct invitations to join the harasser and his wife in ménage a trois.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Movement to End Wage Theft, a report on minimum wage and overtime violations nationwide, was released this month by the Discount Foundation. The report examines the wage theft movement and strategies that have been developed by workers’ rights organizations and attorneys to combat violations of employment laws.
A class action lawsuit filed against Ruth’s Chris Steak House alleges the restaurant chain conducted a pattern and practice of gender discrimination, which included paying men more than women, subjecting women to sexist comments, and disciplining women more harshly than men. According to the Amended Complaint, filed on October 12, 2011 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, “the work environment at the RCSH is one that is demeaning to women, reflects a culture of male domination and female subjugation, and is a causative factor in the discrimination against women in compensation, promotion, and termination.”
The lawsuit made the following allegations of discrimination against the restaurant chain:
- Promotions were generally given to male employees who were members of the “old boys’ network.”
- Male corporate leaders attended corporate retreats in Scotland, England, and Ireland known as the “guys trip.”
- Female employees were frequently the target of sexually stereotypical and derogatory remarks and jokes.
- Females were fired for conduct that when performed by males did not result in termination.
- Male staff members made countless sexual jokes and taunts and regularly used profanity without repercussion.
The class action was filed on behalf of all female employees who worked at Ruth’s Chris Steak House headquarters and restaurants nationwide from September 2006 to present.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently reached a $75,000 settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit against an Illinois restaurant where a teenage hostess and two female cooks were allegedly harassed by the restaurant’s vice president.
According to the Complaint filed in EEOC v. Tony’s Lounge, 08 Civ. 677 (WDS), the three female restaurant workers were victims of offensive sexual remarks and inappropriate sexual touching. Furthermore, after the women complained of the unwelcome sexual advances, the restaurant failed to do anything about it, and the workers were forced to quit their jobs.
In a press release issued by the EEOC, James R. Neely, Jr., District Director of the EEOC’s St. Louis’ District Office, stated that, “Teenage girls and young women are particularly susceptible to sexual harassment and are frequently targeted by sexual predators. Whenever employers fail to protect their young employees, the EEOC will.”
In addition to requiring the restaurant to pay $75,000 to the three former workers, the Consent Decree which settled this case also requires the restaurant to conduct sexual harassment training with managers and to implement a clear policy on preventing sexual harassment at the restaurant.
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.
Outback Steakhouse agreed to a consent decree to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit for $19 million. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Outback Steakhouse discriminated against female employees by restricting their access to high-level managerial positions. The EEOC also alleged that women were denied favorable job assignments.
More than 20,000 former and current employees may benefit from the settlement, provided each woman was employed at a corporately-owned Outback Steakhouse for at least three years since 2002. In addition to monetary relief, the settlement also requires Outback to create an online application system for employees seeking managerial positions. Outback must also report to the EEOC every six months, and must hire an outside consultant responsible for determining whether women are given equal opportunities for advancement.