U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Executive Chef/Owner Inappropriately Touched and Harassed Young Female Employees, Federal Agency Charges
HOUSTON - Tosca Americana Italian Kitchen, a restaurant in Atascosita, Texas, violated federal law by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the restaurant's co-owner (who is also the restaurant's executive chef) routinely made offensive and inappropriate sexual comments to female employees, such as asking them out on dates, telling them that he loved them and wanted them, and asking one of them whether she needed help in the bathroom. Some of the female employees were under age 18 at the time of the alleged harassment. The co-owner also engaged in unwelcome sexual touching of female employees. This misconduct included hugging them tightly, brushing up against and running his hands on their bodies and trying to kiss them, said the EEOC.
A 16-year-old worker complained about the co-owner's improper conduct, but, the EEOC said, the restaurant failed to stop his behavior. The harassment was so intolerable that she was forced to quit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Eddie's Americana Cuisine Concepts, Inc., d/b/a Tosca Americana Italian Kitchen, Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-01707) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the 16-year-old worker and the class of other aggrieved female employees, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future sexual harassment.
"Young, vulnerable workers must be protected against sexual advances at work," said the EEOC Houston District Office's regional attorney, Rudy L. Sustaita. "Owning a business and being the boss is not a license to sexually harass employees."
Rayford O. Irvin, director of the EEOC's Houston District Office, added, "The EEOC is committed to ensuring that all workers, especially teenage and other vulnerable workers, are free from workplace sexual harassment. The agency provides resources to help employers to prevent harassment and comply with the law."
The EEOC's Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth ) presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination, including curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.