Co-Owner's Pervasive Harassment Forced Female Employee to Quit, Federal Agency Charged
ERIE, Pa. -- Ricardo's Restaurant, Inc. of Erie will pay $20,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that the co-owner of Ricardo's Restaurant frequently made offensive comments of a crude or sexual nature to, or in the presence of, Dorothy Hannah and other female employees, and that he also touched female employees in a sexual manner.
According to the lawsuit, the co-owner continued engaging in this unlawful conduct, despite Hannah's complaints about the misconduct. The severe and pervasive harassment was so intolerable that Hannah was compelled to quit, the EEOC charged.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Ricardo's Restaurant, Inc., Civil Action No 1:13-cv-00203) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Erie Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $20,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit permanently enjoins Ricardo's Restaurant from engaging in sex discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation. The co-owner is specifically enjoined from making sexual remarks about or in the presence of, or sexual advances toward, any employees. Ricardo's will create, enforce and disseminate a policy prohibiting harassment and retaliation. For five years, the restaurant must retain a qualified third-party equal employment opportunity or human resources consultant to provide training to all owners, shareholders, directors, managers, supervisors and employees on prohibiting harassment, retaliation and discrimination. The consultant will also investigate any complaints of sexual or retaliatory harassment made against the co-owner. Ricardo's will report to the EEOC regarding its compliance with the consent decree and post a notice about the settlement.
"The requirements of this settlement were carefully designed to protect all employees at the restaurant from harassment or retaliation," said Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "We are confident that this outcome will prevent women from being subjected to such illicit behavior in the future at this workplace."
EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "The EEOC receives many sexual harassment charges against restaurants. This settlement should remind all restaurant owners and managers that EEOC will take action, including litigation, when appropriate, to stop this kind of misconduct at the workplace."
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.