Waitress and Three Family Members Fired for Reporting Misconduct, Federal Agency Charged
ATLANTA – A federal jury has awarded $51,700 in back pay, compensatory and punitive damages to four family members who were fired for resisting sexual harassment at a Tucker, Ga., restaurant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Lauren Goldston, a waitress for Sangria’s Mexican Café, engaged in protected activity when she opposed and complained about unwelcome sexual advances, remarks, and inappropriate touching by a male cook at the restaurant. Lauren Goldston’s mother, Sara, aunt, Francesca, and uncle, Max, also worked at Sangria’s. They all reported the sexual harassment to Sangria’s’ owner on several occasions, the EEOC said, but nothing was done by the company to remedy the hostile work environment. Instead of ending the harassment, the EEOC charged, Sangria’s terminated all of the Goldstons in retaliation for reporting the misconduct.
The Atlanta jury of eight returned a unanimous verdict finding that the claimants were entitled to back pay in the amount of $4,000, as the Goldstons largely mitigated their back pay damages by finding other employment after they were fired. The jury also awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $22,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $15,700.
“This verdict is significant because it indicates to employers that, regardless of their size, they must afford their employees the statutorily protected right to oppose unlawful discrimination without the fear of retaliation,” said Bernice Williams Kimbrough, district director for the Atlanta District Office.
Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC in Atlanta, added, “Suing a small employer is a difficult proposition. However, the EEOC pursued this case to prevent similar acts of retaliation from recurring. In this case, the jury did a fabulous job. Their verdict was fair, thoughtful and well reasoned as they attempted to balance compensating the Goldstons on one hand while ensuring the economic viability of the restaurant going forward.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.