Restaurant Chain Ignored Repeated Complaints of Sexual Harassment by Female Employees, Federal Agency Charged
WINCHESTER, Tenn. – Rafael’s Italian Restaurant, a Tennessee restaurant chain, has agreed to pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:10-CV-00070) charged that Rafael’s Italian Restaurant violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees, including some teenagers, to sexual harassment. The EEOC alleged that as far back as 2005, male kitchen workers at a Tullahoma, Tenn., Rafael’s repeatedly subjected female employees, two of whom were teens at the time, to egregious acts of sexual harassment including crude comments, requests for sex and physical touching -- which encompassed using vegetables to simulate sodomy and to hit the victims between their legs. The EEOC alleged that, despite repeated complaints from several of the women, management ignored the problem.
Failure to correct known sexual harassment, whether by a co-worker or customer, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Winchester Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit enjoins Rafael’s Italian Restaurant from further discriminating against female employees. Rafael’s Italian Restaurant will provide annual training on employee rights under Title VII and must maintain records of sexual harassment complaints and provide annual reports to the EEOC. The decree also requires Rafael’s Italian Restaurant to establish and enforce a written policy that will protect employees from discrimination in the workplace and post a notice to all employees about the lawsuit that provides the EEOC’s contact information.
“Allowing serial harassers to victimize female employees without facing consequences is a clear violation of federal law,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “Managers must take swift action to stop this sort of abuse when they receive complaints of sexual harassment from their employees, especially when the complaints involve teenage employees who are in the work force for the first time.”
Rafael’s Italian Restaurant is one of several restaurants operated by Santos Macias across Tennessee.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.