Protocol Restaurant in Buffalo has been sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for violating New York law by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Paul Pelczynski, the restaurant’s owner, president and general manager, made unwelcome sexual advances and comments to female employees, including requests for sex; repeated invitations for drinks, dinner and sharing a hotel room; and comments about the bodies of female employees and customers. The EEOC further alleges that Pelczynski engaged in inappropriate contact with female employees, including grabbing their buttocks, kissing them, and routinely brushing up against them. Pelczynski also displayed pornography at work in view of employees and sent a group text to employees with pornography in the background, according to the EEOC. Finally, the EEOC charges that Protocol discharged female employees who objected to Pelczynski’s conduct or rejected his advances, and that other female employees quit because they could no longer endure the hostile work environment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by the statute. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the affected employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Owning a business is not a license to sexually harass employees,” said regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Business owners have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment, and the EEOC is prepared to take strong action where an owner abuses his authority. No one should be forced to endure sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact to earn a living. The EEOC is committed to ensuring that all workers are free from sexual harassment on the job.”