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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
10-22-12

Dairy Queen Franchisee to Pay $17,500 to Settle Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit

Manager  Failed to Address Abuse, Then Fired Teenaged Employee for Complaining, Federal  Agency Says

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - YS&J Enterprises, Inc., which  operates a Dairy Queen restaurant in Winston-Salem's Hanes Mall, will pay $17,500 and furnish significant remedial relief to  settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. 

According to the EEOC's  lawsuit (EEOC  v. YS&J Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Dairy Queen, Civil Action No. 1:11 CV  01103), from approximately late March 2009 through Aug. 23, 2009, when  she was fired, 18-year-old Chastity Hill-Cox was subjected to harassment based  on her sex by a male cashier.  The EEOC  contends that the harassment consisted of the cashier talking explicitly about  his sexual encounters, and making sexual gestures in which he simulated sex  acts.  The lawsuit further alleges that  the male cashier called Hill-Cox offensive gender-based epithets such as  "b---h," "c--t" and "p---y" on a frequent basis.  Hill-Cox complained about the harassment to  the restaurant manager, but the harassment did not stop.  According to the lawsuit, Hill-Cox, who was  at work, and her mother called the Winston-Salem police to report the harassment.  The suit further claims that while the police  were present at the restaurant responding to Hill-Cox's complaint, the manager  fired Hill-Cox, stating that Hill-Cox was "causing too many problems" for the  company. 

Sexual harassment and  retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act  of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.

In addition to paying the  $17,500 in damages to Hill-Cox, the company is enjoined from further subjecting  employees to discrimination based on their sex, or from retaliating against  employees for opposing such discrimination. The company has agreed to  redistribute its policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation to  managers and supervisors; conduct anti-discrimination training for managers  and supervisors; post a notice about the settlement; and report internal sexual  harassment and/or retaliation complaints to the EEOC. 

"Sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable,  especially when it involves young and vulnerable victims," said Lynette A.  Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District.  "Further, employers are liable when they fail  to address harassment once they have knowledge that such behavior is occurring,  and cannot fire employees who complain.   We are pleased with this resolution." 

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added,  "Employers have a clear legal duty under federal law to respond to  discrimination complaints and ensure that the unlawful conduct stops.  And no one should ever be fired in  retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment."

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 http://www.eeoc.gov