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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
11-15-10

Alton Restaurant To Pay $75,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

Young Female Employees at Tony’s Abused With Sexual Advances, Touching, Explicit Comments, Federal Agency Charged

ST. LOUIS – Tony’s Restaurant in Alton, Ill., will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the restaurant subjected a teenaged hostess and two young female cooks to sexual harassment.

In its lawsuit against Tony’s Lounge, Inc., and Italia Bakehouse and Bistro, LLC, which operate Tony’s (Case No. 3:08-cv-00677-WDS-DGW) filed in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois), the EEOC charged that while working at Tony’s Restaurant, Kristie Comer, an 18-year-old high school student, was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in 2004 and 2005. The abuse, which the EEOC said was perpetrated by Tony’s Lounge vice president, Michael Ventimiglia, included repeated unwelcome sexual advances and touching and sexually explicit comments. In addition to Comer, the EEOC said, Ventimiglia subjected at least two other young female employees to similar conduct.

Sexual harassment violates 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. Comer was also represented by Sowers and Wolf of St. Louis and Edward Unsell of Alton, Ill.

According to the settlement, $75,000 will be paid the sexual harassment victims. The settlement also requires that the defendants provide training on sexual harassment to all their managers and put in place a clear policy on preventing sexual harassment. The company has also agreed not to rehire the alleged harasser, who has recently left the company.

“Sexual harassment of teenage girls is a recurring problem in the restaurant industry,” said James R. Neely, Jr., district director of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office. “It is vital that management act quickly and decisively to prevent it. Teenage girls and young women are particularly susceptible to sexual harassment and are frequently targeted by sexual predators. Whenever employers fail to protect their young employees, the EEOC will.”

Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the St. Louis District Office, added, “Tony’s is a family business and the alleged harasser was a family member. Although it may put management in a difficult situation, given the family relationships, it is critical in these situations for the employer to take clear unequivocal action, including discipline and discharge when necessary, to stop the harassment.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.