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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-1-11

Applebee’s Owners Pay $1 Million in EEOC Suit

Bismarck, ND, General Manager Abused Women for Six Years Class of 17 Women to Receive Compensation in Largest EEOC Settlement in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. – Food Management Investors, Inc. (FMI) and Apple Core Enterprises, Inc., Minot, N.D.-based companies, have agreed to resolve a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) relating to practices at their Bismarck, N.D. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, the agency announced today. Applebee’s violated federal civil rights laws by permitting a former store general manager to create a pattern and practice of sexual harassment and retaliation against employees, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filled in June 2010. (EEOC v. Apple Core Enterprises, Inc. & Food Management Investors, Inc. d/b/a Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, .No. 1:10-cv-00048 (DLH/CSM)). The EEOC filed its suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary, out-of-court settlement through its conciliation process.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, which followed a pre-suit administrative investigation directed by John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, between 2002 and the end of 2007, former Bismarck South Applebee’s General Manager Mike Cordova allegedly regularly groped female employees, solicited sexual relations, and exposed himself. He also allegedly exposed employees to pornography, told sexually explicit stories and jokes and made highly personalized sexual comments designed to demean and humiliate female employees. The EEOC’s investigation indicated that on at least one occasion, Cordova allegedly coerced an employee into giving him oral sex in exchange for a raise.

Despite repeated complaints by employees and, on occasion, customers, Applebee’s allegedly failed to discipline or stop Cordova’s behavior. Five women previously employed at the Bismarck South Applebee’s filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC that led to the lawsuit. Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“This case demonstrates in a rather emphatic way that sexual harassment is still a challenge for women at some of our best known neighborhood businesses,” Rowe said.

The EEOC’s lawsuit ended today when U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland entered a consent decree resolving the suit. Under the terms of the decree, the ACE and FMI will pay out $1 million in compensatory damages to 17 female former employees who experienced Cordova’s sexual harassment and retaliation during their employment at the Bismarck South Applebee’s. The companies are required to implement a comprehensive training program to enable its employees to identify sexual harassment and properly investigate internal complaints.

John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said, “This manager’s sexual harassment of his subordinates was blatant and ugly, and it permeated every aspect of life on the job for these women. Women who work in restaurants have it tough enough without having to put up with illegal sexual misconduct.” Hendrickson added.

According to its website, (http://nglobe.com:78/), ACE is “a franchisee of Applebee’s International, which owns and operates Applebee’s restaurants in North Dakota, Minnesota, Arizona and California.” Also according to its website, FMI is “a restaurant management company located in Minot, North Dakota [and is] responsible for accounting management for [] Applecore Enterprises, Inc.” Myron D. Thompson of Minot, N.D., has been the president, CEO and director of FMI since 1990. Thompson and Abe Sakak, also of Minot, N.D., are co-owners of ACE.

The EEOC’s litigation efforts were led by trial attorneys Nick Pladson and Jessica Palmer-Denig of the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office, Camille Monahan of EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office, and was supervised by Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. The EEOC’s Chicago District office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.