Christini's Ristorante Italiano, an Italian restaurant located in Orlando, Florida’s "Restaurant Row," has agreed to pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that the restaurant, through its owner Chris Christini, created and encouraged a work environment in which un¬welcome, sexually charged comments and conduct was permissible and commonplace, and which allowed for the repeated propositioning of a female bartender. She was asked to go on dates; described to restaurant patrons as single and available to date them; subjected to sexual innuendo; and told to dress "sexy" and "date-ready." When she complained, Christini fired her, the EEOC said.
In addition to the $80,000 monetary award, the settlement provides for significant relief to help secure a workplace free from unlawful harassment and retaliation in the future. This will include mandatory anti-harassment training for the owner and all employees to be led by a subject matter expert approved by the EEOC. Christini's must also develop, and distribute to its employees, a written anti-harassment policy. The policy will include a discussion of social media as a potential means of workplace harassment that, like other forms, will be not be tolerated. Further, Christini's will hire an independent third-party to operate a telephone hotline for employees to report incidents of discrimination and harassment. The restaurant must also post a notice referencing this lawsuit and consent decree, advising employees of their rights. To ensure that Christini's complies with its obligations, it must submit to a confidential, anonymous workplace climate survey to be provided to the EEOC.
"Consistent with the Commission's long-time commitment to eradicating sexual discrimination in the workplace, the EEOC will continue to file lawsuits to remedy sexual harassment and to ensure that employees are not retaliated against for complaining about it," said a representative of the EEOC. "Federal law is abundantly clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Employers who ignore anti-discrimination laws should be on notice that they do so at their own peril.”