Why Do So Many Brilliant Small Business Entrepreneurs Fail to Expand Their Profitable Businesses?

It can be quite exhilarating to be entertained by brilliant small business entrepreneurs elaborating on their vision for growth, expansion, and incredible profits. However, many of these commendable individuals fail to elevate their small businesses to the grand scale they so passionate were desirous of. Often, this failure is a result of the small business entrepreneur’s inability or lack of skills to transition the successful small business organization into a large organization which would entail sophisticated and complicated organizational infrastructure and operations.

Many of the largest, most successful and highly profitable businesses started as a family business (mom- and pop operation) or by a group of friends working in a back garage assembling a product the family patriarch or a friend invented. At this stage, this setup may work fine during the company’s early stages, but for it to grow and remain profitable, the small business must evolve by enhancing its operations.

Many companies in their building block years operate in an informal fashion, often the founders and those close to them (friends and relatives) take charge of all the functions of the small organization. These functions can range from extremely time-consuming inconsequential matters all the way to the functions requiring the entrepreneur’s genius to keep fueling the engine of the company’s core business. There comes a moment when the demand for the product grows, which would require an increased attention from the entrepreneurs to lead and continually innovate and deliver competitive products. It is at this juncture that the fate of the company is sealed. If the entrepreneur learns to transition from the mom-and-pop style of operations to an executive who manages through delegating managerial functions to his/her subordinates, then the entrepreneur would have a strong chance of growing his or her business. But, if the entrepreneur remains doggedly engaged in micro-managing all business functions and operations they will eventually become spread too thin and unable to both effectively lead and run day-to-day operations.

Being a successful entrepreneur is a distinct concept from being a competent business executive. With growth comes the need for increasing sophistication of an enterprise’s operations. The small company will need to advance its supporting operational infrastructure to efficiently handle a growing client base and business volumes as well as capitalize on new opportunities to expand.  Starting out, family business owners often serve as a “jack of all trades.” Because it’s their own company, they know what needs to be done and are used to doing whatever is needed. New employees, however, will need guidance. This includes providing them with written job descriptions and training. Implement a formalized system for measuring performance that gives employees regular and constructive feedback. Not only is this necessary to help them improve, but it also serves to motivate, compensate and reward them. This is particularly key to attracting and retaining nonfamily employees, who typically desire an objective performance evaluation system that’s applied to family and nonfamily employees alike. To minimize misunderstandings and conflict, issue a handbook of company policies to both family and nonfamily employees, and establish a formal advisory council to objectively mediate and develop solutions.

Also, at the core of a small business are its processes so the more one can systematize and document them, the more easily company can train its staff to follow them for increased efficiency, productivity, and quality. Professionalizing small business processes also involves looking at opportunities to streamline them. Reducing the amount of manual effort required can free up resources to process bigger business volumes. When analyzing the business processes,  attention should be paid to operations, sales and marketing, finance, human resources, and customer product and service delivery.

Often time, for many small business owners, their business vision, goals and strategies tend to primarily reside in their heads. Business planning discussions may informally occur on an impromptu basis around the dinner table or during family or friends’ gatherings. But, as the business operations become increasingly complex, formalizing the small business owners’ plans in a written document and communicating them companywide is vital. This will keep employees in the loop and empower them to make effective decisions and act in alignment with the company’s stated objectives.

The software applications and tools your small businesses use are likely limited to supporting specific business tasks and not as suited for managing overall, end-to-end business processes. As a company’s operations grow and become increasingly complex, another common issue is the proliferation of disparate applications and tools that aren’t linked or made accessible companywide. Supporting a professionalized, process-oriented business environment requires integrated IT systems. And integrated systems let employees easily access operational information and automate work effort for improved productivity.

Transitioning from a mom-and-pop shop to a professional business, small business owners may encounter growing pains. But reviewing their operational infrastructure and making upgrades where possible can help their company survive the economic downturns and thrive in the future.

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Employer-Unions’ Strategic and Systems Approach to Human Resources

Employer-Unions’ Strategic and Systems Approach to Human Resources

Unions, like other organizations, operate in an environment of change. To be effective, and in some cases to even survive, labor organizations need to make wise strategic choices and then effectively implement the strategies chosen. And they must do this simultaneously in a number of different areas, including organizing, collective bargaining, contract administration, and political action.

Central to successful decision-making and policy implementation in all of the above endeavors are the employees of the union. While the term employer-union might sound contradictory to some, it has great meaning to thousands of people who are on the payrolls of labor organizations.

Research shows that “a steady increase in unions’ adoption of more formal personnel policies, budget practices, strategic planning processes, and efforts to evaluate planned activities over the 20-year period studied. They also indicate that unions increasingly recruit individuals meeting collegetechnical, and professional qualifications. Taken together, the results suggest a recognition on the part of many unions that adapting their internal administrative practices to the new realities they face is a fundamental and a necessary part of any effort at organizational renewal.” SeeAdvances in Industrial and Labor Relations, Chapter 7, Adapting Union Administrative Practices to New Realities, Paul Whitehead, Paul F. Clark, Lois S. Gray (2017)

What is Labor Union Theory of Management?

Generally, particularly in unionized workplaces, command-and-control style of management is highly problematic. So, what is the best alliterative?

It is essential for labor unions to model best management practices. “If managing is working with and through people to get things done, then unionists need to become good managers. But ask nearly anyone in the labor movement how well unions manage staff and you will probably get mostly negative answers — once they stop coughing nervously.” Ken A. Margolies (2012, August). Managing Union Management. Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Human Resources Strategy for Labor Unions

If you are a unionist and wondering about the need for strategic human resources professionals in managing your labor union then you have missed the advancement of human resources from mundane administrative functions to strategic partnership within the past twenty years, particularly in the field of labor union management. See, Ken A. Margolies (2011)Human Resource Strategy for Labor Unions: Oxymoron, Chimera or Contributor to Revival, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. (“In many unions the notion that they need an HR strategy or even that there is such a thing is unknown or shunned. However, some unions are seeking new ways to manage staff as they develop strategies to respond to the crisis in the labor movement.“) Mr. Margolies stresses that “unions are in great need of more effective HR strategies with a systems approach.” Facing existential crisis, labor unions can’t continue management as usual. They need to improve “in the area of staff accountability and development; union officials generally resist embracing their management responsibilitiestraining for managers within unions is rare; and internal union politics play a significant complicating role in all aspects of HR within unions.” Ken A. Margolies (2011).

How Can Unions Develop and Implement Such HR Strategies?

Labor Unions need to:

  1. “find better ways to develop highly skilled staff” 
  2. “set performance expectations”
  3. “hold staff accountable” 

Ken A. Margolies, Human Resource Strategy for Labor Unions: Oxymoron, Chimera or Contributor to Revivalpage 7. (2011)(Those unions most focused on staff motivation, development and accountability and strategic planning are most likely to be growing and adapting to environmental changes. Those unions which are largely engaged in legal compliance/personnel functions and internal politics are likely to find it increasingly difficult to adapt to those same changes in the environment.)

Developing Highly Skilled Staff

Many labor unions suffer from inept staff mostly because labor union experience and loyalty to unionism have become the superseding factors in recruitment and staffing labor unions. See,  Ken A. Margolies, Human Resource Strategy for Labor Unions: Oxymoron, Chimera or Contributor to Revival, page 11. (2011)(“In the area of recruitment and selection, it is common that unions primarily look for dedication to the cause of unionism and previous experience to the exclusion of many other factors. Factors such as emotional intelligenceexperience outside the labor movementwhether the candidate is a good fit for the team and job and the ability to grow and develop into more responsible jobs with the union often are less valued.”) Thus, while loyalty to unionism and union experience are important factors to be considered in recruitment and staffing labor union organizations, equal attention should be given to diversifying staff by employing individuals from “outside the labor movement.” A staff with diverse backgrounds can actually strengthen organizations.

Performance Management and Accountability Within Unions

Performance management and accountability hardly exist in many unions and where it is practiced it is often inconsistent and ineffective. “The evaluation systems and accountability systems are not very strong in unions and accountability is the part of supervising that union people have the most problem with. Unions have a high tolerance for people who are not doing what they are supposed to. If supervisors and managers generally are reluctant to give corrective feedback it is particularly true of managers within unions who consider being compared to a boss as a cutting insult. Many union supervisors and managers have such a high level of discomfort with being in the “boss” role that it is not surprising that all too often union staff who are widely seen as deficient never get held accountable.” See,  Ken A. MargoliesHuman Resource Strategy for Labor Unions: Oxymoron, Chimera or Contributor to Revival, page 25-26. (2011)

Considering the highly political nature of labor unions, conducting annual performance evaluations in labor unions tend to be ineffective. Instead of avoiding or postponing performance evaluations to annual events, managers should create a culture of feedback where they give and receive constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. “The atmosphere within many unions is mostly unfriendly to giving or receiving feedback due to the political nature of unions;” hence, achieving a culture of feedback could be trying but not insurmountable.

Clearly, for unions to have successful HR strategies for staff development and accountability, they need to practice better alternatives that have been the norm. With the enormous pressures facing the labor movement, unions are quickly coming to the conclusion that they cannot continue to maintain staff who are not performing. As a result, there is a great deal of interest in finding better ways to keep staff accountable. In many cases, these efforts are primitive and center on simply revising performance appraisal forms and practices. However, a growing number of unions are taking a more comprehensive and progressive approach to increasing staff accountability.

Ken A. Margolies, Page 32, (2011).


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From Healthy Debates to Personal Attacks and Bullying

In a community full of opinions and preferences, people always disagree. Employers should encourage active discussions and welcome heated debates on the services or products, but personal attacks such as bullying and harassment should be ground for immediate and permanent termination of employment of the offender. Zero tolerance is the best policy and practice to apply to such personal attacks in the workplace.

The fallacy of Attacking the Character or Circumstances

One type of fallacy is the personal attack.

The argument concerning the attack of a person’s character or circumstances is characterized and shown to be sometimes persuasive but normally fallacious. This fallacy occurs when someone refutes another’s ideas by attacking the person rather than the ideas.  The fallacy draws its appeal from the technique of “getting personal.” The assumption is that what the person is saying is entirely or partially dictated by his character or special circumstances and so should be disregarded.

Personal Attacks, Bullying, and Harassment

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines “workplace bullying as the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.” While some of the specific actions a person may take against another person that would constitute bullying is similar, or even identical, to the actions seen in Workplace Harassment, there are several distinct difference:

  • Bullying can be perpetrated by anyone against anyone. Harassment only pertains to Protected Classes, such as race, religion, sex or gender, nationality, etc. Protected Classes is not a consideration in cases of bullying.
  • Bully is characterized by repetition. A single “incident” may be mean and hurtful, and probably violates a business’s own professional conduct rules, but it does not constitute bullying. A single incident of, for example, sexual harassment, however, is grounds for legal action.
  • In cases where bullying has resulted in legal action, the grounds for legal regress focuses more on the harm caused to the target, both psychological and physical, rather than the illegality of the act. Harassment cases focus very specifically the violation of Harassment Laws.
  • Most importantly, unlike Harassment, there are no specific state or federal laws that explicitly protect a worker from bullying. For that reason, it is incumbent on employers to establish policies prohibiting bullying, even a single act should not be tolerated.

Bullying can be viewed differently from Harassment in that the intent of the action is to harm in some personal or professional sense, regardless of the “protected” characteristics about the individual that would fall under harassment. Race, religion, gender, age and other state and federally protected class attributes may be a component of bullying but they don’t have to be. This means that bullying has the potential to be a larger and more pervasive problem than harassment.

Federal and State Harassment laws have made awareness of harassment a focus of many organizations’ employee training. Most employees today are at least aware that policies and laws against, for example, sexual harassment, are in place. Bullying, however, is still largely under-addressed in many organizations. And even in organizations that have rules against bullying, many employees still don’t understand what bullying is.

Workplace bullying can come in many different forms from various people within an organization or company and typically falls into three categories: Personal attacks, professional attacks, and actions designed to apply control or manipulate an outcome. When the term “bullying” is used, people often think of physical harm or abuse. But bullying can be any intentional, repeated action that is specifically intended to make another employee feel bad and affect their happiness on the job. Some examples of each include:

Attacks intended to cause personal suffering

  • Spreading rumors, hurtful gossip or innuendo
  • Yelling, name-calling, mocking, insulting or ridiculing
  • Unwanted physical contact or physical gestures that intimidate or threaten
  • Invalid or baseless criticism
  • Accusatory or threatening statements
  • Faultfinding or unwarranted blaming
  • Displaying offensive photos or objects
  • Temper tantrums, mood swings, shouting
  • Humiliation, public reprimands or obscene language
  • Ganging up against a co-worker
  • Aggressive posturing, ignoring

Attacks intended to affect job performance or career

  • Denying access to resources, assignments, projects or opportunities
  • Stealing or taking credit for another’s work
  • Interfering with or undermining someone’s work performance
  • Ignoring phone calls or messages
  • Little or no feedback on performance
  • Withholding information essential to performing one’s job
  • Toxic e-mails

Actions intended to control or manipulate

  • Failing to invite someone to an essential meeting
  • Threatening job loss
  • Excessive monitoring or micro-management
  • Assigning tasks that cannot be completed by the deadline; setting unrealistic goals
  • Interference or sabotage
  • Ignoring a coworker with the intent to harm or control
  • Treating a worker differently than peers and co-workers
  • Ostracism, isolation, dissociation or exclusion from others
  • Refusal to take responsibility
  • Excessive, impossible, conflicting work expectations or demands
  • Inequitable and harsh treatment
  • Other objectionable behavior designed to torment, isolate, pester or abuse

Looking through these characteristics it is easy to see many of these behaviors in employees in almost any work environment. It is important to remember that bullying is an action specifically intended to hurt an individual or a group, not simply an act of poor communication and interpersonal skills on the part of an employee or supervisor. Further, these actions are reserved for the target individual or group and not applied to others.

What can you do?

It is not uncommon that a person being bullied chooses not to report it out of fear of retaliation from the employee or the company they work for. Still, workers have rights and it’s possible to exercise them when necessary while also remaining professional. Further, ignoring the problem will not usually change things so remaining silent won’t help.

If you believe you are a being bullied there are professional steps you can take:

Look critically, and honestly, at the situation:

Take the time to evaluate what’s really happening. Are you the target of a bully, or are others also getting the same treatment? Is it repeatedly happening or is it just a bad day? Maybe the individual is just an unhappy, angry person who treats most people the same way. While none of these behaviors should be acceptable in the workplace, there is a difference between bullying and general, bad behavior. Bullying is persistently aggressive and/or unreasonable behavior against a specific group or individual.

Address the bully directly

If you know you’re being bullied, firmly, and professionally, tell the individual that their behavior is unacceptable and politely asking that person to stop. Try not to engage with the bully any further than that because a verbal match was not your intention. Further, arguing or yelling can exacerbate the situation and make you look just as guilty.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this then speak with your supervisor and ask for their assistance.  Your supervisor should be able to guide you through the steps you need take. Mediation is one-way supervisors can help to resolve the issue.

Keep a record

It’s always a good practice to document events as soon as they happen. Write down the details of any bullying to include what they said, what you said, along with the time and date. This will assure that should the time come to take things to another level, you are not relying on memory and you can remain factual and dispassionate. Both will help to strengthen your position.

Use your Chain of Command

Most organizations have either formal or informal procedures in place for addressing conflict and it usually begins by speaking to your supervisor. Other procedures may be documented in your organization’s employee handbook.

If the person bullying you is your supervisor then moving up to the next supervisory level or the human resources office will usually be next.  Always keep any physical proof and documentation that you may have and present it to the proper personnel. Describe what is happening in detail and explain how the situation is impacting your ability to do your work. It’s important to stress that you want to find a productive, comfortable way of addressing the situation.

Check your emotions

Bullying can be perceived as a serious threat even when it’s not physical. It is normal therefore to react emotionally; getting angry, defensive, and even crying are all normal reactions to a perceived threat. As hard as it may be, remaining calm and unemotional can go alone way toward maintaining the upper hand when addressing the bully or seeking assistance.

Seek Assistance

Many people are afraid to address issues of bullying because they fear it could impact or jeopardize their position or their employment. But bullying left unchecked can harm more than your career, it can affect your mental, physical, and emotional health. It is never in the best interest of an organization for employees to be bullied and most supervisors, and certainly business executives and owners, will not tolerate it. Besides the negative impact on worker productively and morale, in worst cases, there can be legal ramifications to unchecked bullying in the workplace. So don’t keep attacks to yourself.

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Rosebud Restaurants for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

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.

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

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.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill Sued by EEOC For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

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.

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

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.”

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

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.

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Facts About Retaliation

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.

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

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.”

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