Restaurant Subjected Female Employees to Egregious Sexual Harassment Including Grabbing and Groping, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE -GMRI, Inc., doing business as Red Lobster, subjected a class of female employees to pervasive sexual harassment at its Salisbury, Md., location in violation of federal law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
The EEOC alleged that the restaurant's then culinary manager subjected Valerie Serman, Racheal Cox and a class of similarly situated female employees to longstanding sexual harassment including pressing his groin against them, and grabbing and groping them. The EEOC further alleged that the manager made sexually offensive comments, such as frequent remarks about the bodies of female employees and about his genitals, according to the lawsuit.
According to the EEOC, Red Lobster, failed to take prompt action to stop the sexual harassment even though the offensive conduct and comments were blatant and pervasive. Serman also complained to her general manager about the harassment, but he not only failed to act, but also had a history of making vulgar and sexually charged remarks about female employees himself, the lawsuit claimed.
Subjecting employees to a sexually hostile work environment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. GMRI, Inc., d/b/a Red Lobster, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-02860-MJG) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the Red Lobster from engaging in sexual harassment, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Serman, Cox and the class of female employees, and other affirmative relief.
"When companies tolerate sexual harassment, everyone loses," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "This lawsuit illustrates yet again that when employers abdicate their responsibility to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment, then the EEOC will take action to protect employees from unrelenting harassment committed and condoned by management officials."
"No employee should have to endure severe or pervasive sexual harassment in order to earn a living," added Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office whose jurisdiction includes Maryland.
GMRI, Inc., d/b/a Red Lobster, is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc. According to its website, www.darden.com, Darden Restaurants, Inc. is the world's largest full-service restaurant company. Through its subsidiaries, it owns and operates more than 2,100 restaurants and employs more than 200,000 people.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.