School Food Service Company Subjected Male Employees to Derogatory Sexual Comments, Fired for Complaints, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - Royal Dining Catering, Inc., Royal Dining Group, and Better 4 You Breakfasts, related companies that provide prepared meals to schools, violated federal law by subjecting four male employees in Phoenix to a hostile work environment based on their sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. EEOC also charged the companies by illegally retaliating against the complainants by refusing to rehire the men and a female co-worker because they reported the unlawful discrimination.
According to EEOC's suit, the four men were subjected to sexual harassment by their coworkers and supervisors because of their failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The complaint alleges that from June 2011 to May 2013, the men were subjected to mocking gestures and pervasive name calling. EEOC alleged that the men, along with a female co-worker, complained to Royal Dining's management and owners about the unwelcome conduct, yet the harassment continued.
The lawsuit further alleges that Royal Dining refused to bring back the five employees to work for the following school year because of their complaints about discrimination. By that time, EEOC alleged, Better 4 You Breakfast had assumed responsibility for Royal Dining's employees, and one of its managers participated in Royal Dining's decision not to rehire the employees because of the charges of discrimination.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including harassment based on gender stereotyping. EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Royal Dining et al, Civil Action No. 2:16-cv-03313-DLR, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process with all companies. The lawsuit seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for alleged victims, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.
"Employers need to remember that sex discrimination includes harassment based on sex stereotyping," said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Once an employee complains about sex-based harassment in the workplace, the employer is required under federal law to act to stop and prevent further harassment."
Elizabeth Cadle, acting district director of EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Employees have an absolute legal right to file discrimination charges against an employer and cannot be retaliated against for doing so. Unfortunately, nearly 45 percent of charges to EEOC involve allegations of retaliation - the most common type of discrimination charge."
Besides in Phoenix, the companies have locations in Chatsworth and Commerce, Calif. EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.