Employees Fired for Complaining About Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Seymour ZX, LLC, the Tennessee subsidiary of a Georgia company and a franchisee of the Zaxby’s restaurant chain, will pay $20,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-0434) in U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division, two employees of a Seymour, Tenn., Zaxby’s were fired because they complained about sexual harassment. Both employees were fired on the same day, the EEOC said, and banned from the store.
Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from taking action against employees who complain about alleged unlawful employment practices. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“Retaliation charges have been on the rise for years, and it is a real concern,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “Employers cannot ignore the fact that employees have a clear legal right to voice their opposition to perceived violations of federal civil rights laws without fear of repercussion such as discharge. Firing employees who exercise their rights to complain about discrimination is a violation of federal law and will be vigorously enforced by the EEOC.”
Besides providing monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Leon Jordan on January 5, 2011, enjoins Seymour ZX from retaliating against any employee for complaining about sexual harassment or protesting the company’s action or inaction in responding to such complaints. It also requires Seymour ZX to amend its employee handbook in order to ensure that a member of management is always available to receive a sexual harassment complaint and train its owners, managers and employees on such misconduct. The decree also contains reporting and posting requirements.
Seymour ZX, LLC is the Tennessee subsidiary of a Georgia company and a franchisee of Zaxby’s, a chain of restaurants selling chicken items in 12 states at more than 500 locations.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.