89 Women To Benefit From Settlement With World's Largest Burger King Franchisee
NEW YORK - Carrols Corporation, the world's largest Burger King franchisee, will pay $2.5 million and take significant remedial steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The lawsuit alleged discrimination against 89 female employees around the country, many of whom were teenagers when they worked for Carrols.
The EEOC's suit charged that Carrols subjected a class of women - including many teenagers - to egregious sexual harassment at Burger King locations throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. EEOC alleged that the harassment, which ranged from obscene comments, jokes, and propositions to unwanted touching, exposure of genitalia, strip searches, stalking, and even rape, was perpetrated by managers in the majority of cases. According to the EEOC, Carrols also retaliated against some of the women by cutting their hours, manufacturing discipline against them, and even firing them, while it forced more women to quit because the harassment made their working conditions intolerable.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 98-cv-01772 FWS/TWD in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Under the terms of the publicly-filed consent decree resolving the case, Carrols will pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and lost wages to the 89 victims. It also will implement a number of measures to increase employees' awareness of Carrols' anti-harassment policies and to improve Carrols' response to complaints brought forward under those policies. Those measures include enhanced training for Carrols' managers in preventing and responding to harassment; improved mechanisms for tracking harassment complaints; notices posted in all domestic Carrols Burger King locations informing employees about the lawsuit's resolution and their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws; and an injunction prohibiting further harassment and retaliation.
"As this case demonstrates, the EEOC will persist in enforcing the legal prohibitions against harassment until the matter is resolved. Although employers may have adequate anti-harassment policies on paper, they are of little value when employers fail to take positive steps to prevent or remedy harassment," said P. David Lopez, General Counsel for EEOC. "Employers must make sure employees know about the policies and then they must respond effectively when complaints are brought forward."
Gillian L. Thomas, trial attorney in the New York District Office, which encompasses New York City, Buffalo, Newark, and Boston, added, "The harassment reported by the women in this case was truly egregious, with the majority of cases involving physical contact. No woman, regardless of age, should have to endure such abuse just to earn a paycheck."
Headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., Carrols owns, operates, and franchises 576 restaurants under the Burger King® brand, as well as close to 250 restaurants under the Pollo Tropical® and Taco Cabana® brands. Last spring, Carrols nearly doubled its Burger King locations in a deal that gave Burger King a 28.9% equity stake in the franchisee. Carrols operates in 13 states and employs over 17,000 people.
The EEOC recently updated its Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/), which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment
discrimination. The website also contains curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities in the work force.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.