U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Thomas Country Buffet Waitresses Harassed then Fired for Reporting the Harassment, Federal Agency Charges
ATLANTA – Thomas Country Buffet restaurant violated federal law by subjecting seven waitresses to a pattern of sexual harassment and then firing them for reporting it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit recently filed.
According to the EEOC’s suit against MJDE Venture, LLC, and J&S International, Inc., who both owned and operated the restaurant during the time that the waitresses were harassed, seven women were subjected to repeated acts of sexual harassment by a restaurant cook. The harassment included a daily barrage of lewd sexual comments, gestures, and inappropriate physical touching. Each waitress said that the harassment began shortly after they started working at Thomas Country Buffet. All seven women complained to restaurant owner, MJDE Venture, LLC, about the harassment. However, the harassment continued. Two of the women were eventually fired by MJDE Venture, LLC for reporting the harassment, while another waitress was forced to resign when she could no longer tolerate it.
In or around July 2008, J&S International, Inc. took over ownership of the restaurant and continued to employ the remaining four waitresses as well as the cook who was harassing them. The remaining four victims complained to the new restaurant owner, J&S International, Inc., about the harassment. However, the new owner also refused to remedy the situation. Seeing no end to the harassment, the women reported the harassment to the EEOC. Within weeks of doing so, all four women were fired by J&S International, Inc.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-03059-GET-RGV) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with the Defendants. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the waitresses, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such harassment and retaliation by the restaurant in the future.
“It should never be standard operating procedure to subject employees to a barrage of lewd comments and gestures, and inappropriate touching; yet not one but two different owners ignored their employees’ rights to work free from sexual harassment,” said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Equally seriously, one employer thought that retaliation was the way to fix the problem. The EEOC will be vigilant in protecting the rights of employees to work free from sexual harassment and to complain of unlawful behavior without fear of losing their jobs.”
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.