U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Cooks Subjected Female Waitresses to Sexual Comments and Touching, Federal Agency Charges
DURHAM, N.C. – A Durham, N.C. restaurant known as “Papas Grille” violated federal law by subjecting a class of female waitresses to a sexually hostile work environment causing one waitress to quit her job, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, from around January 2009 until around April 2009, Myrna Renea Lloyd, a waitress at Papas Grille, was sexually harassed by two of the restaurant’s male cooks. The harassment included among other things, one of the cooks purposely brushing his body against Lloyd as he passed her, patting and slapping Lloyd on the buttocks, and wrapping his arms around her and hugging her. The EEOC further alleged that the other cook would dart his tongue in and out of his mouth in a sexual manner and make comments to Lloyd on a weekly basis, such as, “ooh baby” and “won’t you go out with me baby.” Although Lloyd complained to the restaurant’s head chef and the restaurant’s owner about the cooks’ unwelcome and offensive sexual conduct, the harassment continued until Lloyd felt forced to resign, the EEOC says.
The EEOC also alleged that other female waitresses were victims of sexual harassment by male co-workers, and that complaints were made to the head chef and the owner about the sexual harassment, to no avail. The lawsuit was filed against Agean, Inc., which is the corporation that owns the Papas Grille restaurant.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Agean, Inc. d/b/a Papas Grille, Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00795) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency seeks back pay for Lloyd, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Lloyd and the other victims of harassment, and injunctive relief.
“Employers must have in place a procedure for victims of sexual harassment to report the harassment and for the employer to promptly respond and rectify it,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “The EEOC will aggressively prosecute cases where the employer leaves its employees without protection against sexual harassment.”
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.