Rosebud Restaurants for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

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Server Was Sexually Harassed and Fired After Complaining About Harassment and Racial Slurs Against African-Americans, Federal Agency Alleges

CHICAGO – Chicago company Rosebud Restaurants violated federal civil rights laws by subjecting a server to sexual harassment and then firing her after she complained about sexual harassment and objected to employees in the company referring to African-Americans by racial slurs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that Tina Rosenthal, who worked as a server at Rosebud’s now-closed Centro location, was subjected to sexual harassment by another server in 2013. The alleged harassment included unwelcome sexual comments and propositions and touching. Rosenthal complained about the harassment to managers, but Rosebud did not take adequate steps to address her complaints, the EEOC claims.

In September 2013, the EEOC sued Rosebud for failing to hire African-American applicants because of their race. After the EEOC filed suit, Rosenthal, who is white, objected during a company meeting to employees using racial slurs to refer to blacks. A few weeks later, according to the EEOC, Rosebud fired Rosenthal for pretextual reasons.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about or opposing discrimination.

The EEOC’s race discrimination suit settled in May 2017 with a four-year consent decree providing $1.9 million in monetary relief for black applicants who were denied jobs at Rosebud. The decree also required hiring goals for African-Americans, recruiting of black applicants, monitoring of Rosebud’s hiring practices, and training.

The EEOC filed yesterday’s suit against Rosebud after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Rosebud Restaurants, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-6815 was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division and assigned to Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan.

“Here, Rosebud was already facing a race discrimination lawsuit, and compounded the problem by firing an employee who objected to racially offensive comments,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “The EEOC takes retaliation very seriously. The employment discrimination protections that Title VII provides are hollow if employees who oppose discrimination face reprisal. We will not let a retaliatory termination go unchallenged.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Rivers Casino Sued for Firing Employee Who Needed Time Off for Cancer Treatment

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Casino Violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by Refusing Time Off for Cancer Surgery, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – Rivers Casino in Des Plaines violated federal law prohibiting disability discrim­ination by denying an employee’s request for additional leave to get cancer treatment and then firing him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that Rivers Casinos wrongfully denied Donnan Lake’s request for a reason­able accommodation of a few additional weeks of leave to have surgery related to his cancer. Lake suffers from sarcoma and has required chemotherapy and surgery to treat his cancer.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified employees with disa­bilities, include providing medical leave if does not present an undue burden to the employer.

The EEOC filed yesterday’s suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Midwest Gaming LLC, dba Rivers Casino, Civil Action No. 17-cv-6811 was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division and assigned to Judge Rubin Castillo.

“Employers need to be reminded that a limited request for medical leave can be a reasonable accommodation and employers risk violating the law if they summarily deny such requests,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office.  “Mr. Lake was a good employee who just needed a little more time to fight his cancer. It is unfortunate that Rivers ignored its obligations under the ADA and fired him while he was trying to fight his cancer.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Sued by EEOC For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

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Female GM Propositioned and Groped Young Male Employee, Federal Agency Charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fast-food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill violated federal law by allowing a restaurant manager to sexually harass her subordinate and retaliating against him after he reported the misconduct, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s investigation, a 22-year-old male shift manager at a Chipotle San Jose store was forced to endure intrusive verbal and physical harassment by his female general manager. In addition to frequently discussing her own sex life and posting a daily “sex scoreboard” in the main office concerning all the staff’s sex lives, the general manager told the young shift manager that she wanted to suck his genitals, watch him have sex with his girlfriend, and engage in a “threesome.” She also frequently slapped, groped and grabbed his privates, the EEOC charged.

Even after he reported her behavior to upper management, the general manager continued to harass him, says the EEOC, and she retaliated against him by instructing employees not to speak to him. Also, he was locked in a walk-in freezer, and his motorcycle was picked up and moved to a different area in the parking lot. Left with no other alternatives, the male employee ultimately quit, the EEOC said.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Case No. 5:17-CV-05382) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the shift manager and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent sexual harassment and retaliation from recurring at Chipotle.

“This young man’s first real job experience was shaped by a supervisor who abused her authority and created a sexually charged workplace culture,” said EEOC San Francisco Senior Trial Attorney Peter F. Laura. “Federal law requires employers to protect their workers from harassment and sexual abuse, especially in the hands of a manager.”

EEOC San Jose Local Office Director Rosa Salazar added, “Employers must take immediate and effective steps to investigate harassment, no matter whether filed by a male or female employee.” She noted that 16.6% of sexual harassment charges filed with the agency were brought by male workers in FY 2016.

American Queen Steamboat Sued by EEOC for Firing Employee Who Opposed Sexual Harassment

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Cruise Director Fired for Supporting Coworker’s Harassment Claim, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – American Queen Steamboat Company, a cruise company headquartered in Memphis, unlawfully fired an employee after he supported his coworker’s complaint about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that in December 2014, Cruise Director Carson Turner submitted a written complaint to American Queen supporting the claim of his coworker that this coworker was being sexually harassed by a supervisor. Turner criticized American Queen for failing to stop the harassment. Turner also criticized a high-level company manager for alerting the alleged harasser, a friend of that manager, about the coworker’s complaint. The manager confronted Turner about his complaint and threatened his job. Turner reported this retaliatory conduct to his immediate supervisor, but the super­visor took no remedial action. And in May 2015, American Queen fired Turner, even though his super­visor told him that he had done “nothing wrong.”

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination, including opposing the sexual harassment of a co­worker. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (EEOC v. American Queen Steamboat Company, Civil Action 17-cv-02669), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting American Queen from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Turner. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Liane T. Rice of the EEOC’s New York office, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.

“An employee who reports the sexual harassment of a coworker is doing the workplace and the employer a big favor,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Such whistleblowers are entitled to the fullest protection of the law, and the EEOC will fight to see they get it.”

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, added, “This case shows clearly the critical importance of employers training their supervisors to respond appropriately and effectively to discrimination complaints – and certainly never to punish someone for reporting such misconduct.”

Antonella’s Restaurant & Pizzeria to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination Suit

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Dutchess Co. Pizzerias Subjected Hispanic Employees to a Hostile Work Environment Because of Their National Origin, Federal Agency Charged

NEW YORK –  A small group of pizzeria restaurants based in Wappinger Falls and Fishkill in Dutchess County, N.Y., will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Antonella’s Restaurant & Pizzeria, Inc., JTA, Inc., and Dellicap, LLC, doing business as Grand Centro Grill (collectively Antonella’s) discriminated against Hispanic employees by subjecting them to name calling, slurs, and creating and maintaining a hostile work environment because of their national origin. Antonella’s also unlawfully demanded that the workers speak only English in the workplace without a business reason for this requirement, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Case No.7:15-CV-07666) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas on June 22, 2017, provides that Antonella’s will pay $50,000 for the discrimination victims. Also, the decree provides for extensive safeguards to prevent future discrimination by implementing anti-discrimination policies, training and problem-solving procedures.

“We are pleased that because of this settlement, Antonella’s will institute policies that were previously missing and may assist in preventing future discrimination,” EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein said.

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, “This case exemplifies the EEOC’s commit­ment to enforcing our laws when employers discriminate against any employees, including especially vulnerable, low-wage workers in a restaurant kitchen.”

Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the agency’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and trafficking.

Facts About Retaliation

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The EEO laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.  Asserting these EEO rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms.  For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:

  • filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
  • communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
  • answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
  • refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
  • resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
  • requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
  • asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.

Participating in a complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. Other acts to oppose discrimination are protected as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if he or she did not use legal terminology to describe it.

Engaging in EEO activity, however, does not shield an employee from all discipline or discharge. Employers are free to discipline or terminate workers if motivated by non-retaliatory and non-discriminatory reasons that would otherwise result in such consequences.  However, an employer is not allowed to do anything in response to EEO activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about future discrimination.

For example, depending on the facts, it could be retaliation if an employer acts because of the employee’s EEO activity to:

  • reprimand the employee or give a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be;
  • transfer the employee to a less desirable position;
  • engage in verbal or physical abuse;
  • threaten to make, or actually make reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police);
  • increase scrutiny;
  • spread false rumors, treat a family member negatively (for example, cancel a contract with the person’s spouse); or
  • make the person’s work more difficult (for example, punishing an employee for an EEO complaint by purposefully changing his work schedule to conflict with family responsibilities).

For more information, Questions and Answers: Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/retaliation-qa.cfm.

El Chaparro to Pay $20,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

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ATLANTA – El Chaparro, Inc., a Tex-Mex restaurant in Covington, Ga., will pay $20,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC filed suit in 2016, charging that El Chaparro violated federal law when one of its owners sexually harassed four female servers at its Greensboro, Ga., restaurant location in 2013 and 2014. According to the EEOC’s complaint, El Chaparro’s general manager and co-owner showed the four servers pictures and videos containing sexual images, talked about the servers’ sex lives, and showed the servers shirtless photos of himself on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. The servers complained about the sexual harassment to the restaurant’s other owner, but the company failed to take any action to stop the harassment, the EEOC said. The Greensboro restaurant location is now closed and the four women no longer work for El Chaparro.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-4118-RWS-CMS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Divi­sion, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary damages to the servers, the consent decree settling the lawsuit requires El Chaparro to create and disseminate a handbook containing policies prohibiting sexual harass­ment. The decree also requires that the company provide annual equal employment opportunity training to its owners, managers and employees. The five-year decree further requires the company to post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and to provide periodic reporting to EEOC about sexual harassment complaints.

“The harassment of female employees in the restaurant industry is far too common an occurrence,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Employees should be able to go to work without fear and without being subjected to any kind of abuse.”

Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “The agency is pleased that El Chaparro agreed to resolve this case. The women will be compensated monetarily, and the training and monitoring provisions in the consent decree will contribute to the agency’s mission and hopefully ensure this will not happen to any other employees of this company.”

EEOC Sues Applebee’s Grill and Bar for Sexual Harassment

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Assistant Manager at North Myrtle Beach Location Subjected Two Sisters to Sexual Comments and Touching, Federal Agency Charges

FLORENCE, S.C. – Green Apple, LLC, dba Applebee’s Grill and Bar, violated federal law when it subjected two female employees, sisters, to a sexually hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on 3 May 2017.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, around September 2013, Tracy Frye began working as a server at Applebee’s Grill and Bar in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. The EEOC’s complaint charged that from around January 2014 until October of that year, one of the male assistant managers at the rest­aurant subjected Tracy to sexual harassment. The alleged abuse included comments about the size of her breasts, com­paring salad dressing to semen, and propositioning Tracy for sex.

Around June 2014, Cindy Frye, Tracy Frye’s sister, began working as a server at the same Applebee’s. The EEOC said that from June 2014 until October of that year, the same assistant manager sexually harassed Cindy as well. The alleged misconduct toward Cindy included comments regarding female genitalia and as well as propo­sitions for sex. The complaint further alleges that the assistant manager touched both women inappro­priately. According to the EEOC’s complaint, restaurant management was aware of the sexual harass­ment, but took no action to stop it until late October 2014, when a male relative of one of the women threatened to address the situation personally.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing a sexually hostile work environment to exist in the workplace. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Florence Division (EEOC v. Green Apple, LLC, dba Applebee’s Neigh­borhood Grill and Bar, Case No. 4:17-cv-01152-RBH-KDW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, including compensatory and punitive damages for the harassment victims, as well as injunctive relief.

“This incredible case – where an abusive manager allegedly harassed one sister and then another – reinforces the crucial need for employers to take appropriate action to stop unwelcome sexual com­ments and misconduct in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC takes a company’s disregard for the federally protected rights of its employees very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs.”

Hiatt & Mason Enterprises to Pay $35,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment Lawsuit

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Black Employee Subjected to Racial Epithets Almost Daily, Federal Agency Charged

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. – Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., a structural steel erection services company, has agreed to pay $35,000 and provide other relief to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Hiatt & Mason violated federal law when it subjected a black employee to a racially hostile work environment.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, around March 2014, Paul Bowman began working as a laborer at Hiatt & Mason’s facility in Mount Airy, N.C. The EEOC said that starting in March 2014, Bowman’s white foreman and some of his co-workers subjected him to racial harassment for almost two years. The alleged misconduct included daily or almost daily use of the “N-word” and other racial epithets, as well as racial jokes about blacks. On more than one occasion, Bowman was threatened physically by one of the co-workers who engaged in racist name calling. The agency further charged that the company’s equal employment opportunity officer witnessed at least one of the incidents of harassment and received complaints about some of the abuse, but took no action to stop it. Bowman left the company around March 2016.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from allowing a racially hostile work environment to exist in the workplace. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-01429), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Bowman, the company entered into a four-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement a policy that prohibits race-based harassment, provides at least three alternative managers to whom employees can report harassment, and requires managers to notify the company president of all employee complaints. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for its employees, supervisors, and managers on Title VII and its prohibition against workplace harassment. Hiatt & Mason must also distribute a letter from its presi­dent to all employees, stating that any employee who engages in racially offensive conduct shall be subject to discipline, including possible termination. The decree further requires that Hiatt & Mason post an employee notice about the lawsuit as well as provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

“Employers must take appropriate action to stop their employees’ use of racial slurs in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC takes a company’s failure to take appropriate action to stop racial slurs and racially offensive conduct very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs.”

Glaser Organic Farms Settles EEOC Suit for National Origin and Color Harassment and Retaliation

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Kitchen Workers Compensated for the National Origin and Color Discrimination by Management

MIAMI – Glaser Organic Farms, a Redlands-based retail farm owned and operated by Stanley Glaser, will pay two female kitchen workers $15,000 and implement important injunctive relief to settle a harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Glaser Organic Farms violated federal law by subjecting Debora Velasquez, who separately intervened in the case, and a fellow kitchen worker to a hostile work environment based on national origin and color. Velasquez, one of the kitchen workers with the darkest skin color and the only one from Guatemala, was called “burro” and “negra” by the kitchen manager and referred to as the “chocolate one” by her supervisors. The kitchen manager regularly told kitchen workers that “Mexicans are stupid,” “Mexicans are lazy,” and that Mexicans were ignorant and could not read or write.

Finally, the EEOC said, the company fired Velasquez for complaining about the mistreatment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in September 2015, EEOC, et al. v. Stanley Glaser d/b/a Glaser Organic Farms, No. 1:15-cv-23642 (S.D. Fla.), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, Glaser Organic Farms will create and implement an anti-discrimination policy, and provide first-time bilingual training for its managers and all its agricultural workers on their federal rights against discrimination and retaliation. All the required training will be personally overseen by an independent third-party civil rights monitor for a three-year period.

The resolution also requires Glaser Organic Farms to post a notice in a prominent location so that all employees are aware of the outcome of this case and their federal protections against discrimination. Employees are encouraged to contact the EEOC should they have any questions and concerns regarding the workplace.

Glaser Organic Farms also agreed to maintain records of national origin and color discrimination and retaliation complaints and their investigation of such complaints. The decree highlights EEOC’s mission to protect and educate those who may not be aware of their rights against employment discrimination.

“This resolution was particularly important to the EEOC because of our mission to ensure that especially vulnerable workers are protected,” said the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert E. Weisberg. “Employers have a responsibility to make sure that all employees are respected and treated fairly in the workplace regardless of their national origin or color.”

Michael Farrell, district director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, added, “The Florida farmworker community should know that the EEOC has heard their concerns and will continue to be their voice in the federal courts, especially against employers who seek to silence their employees.”