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PRESS RELEASE
9-1-11

EEOC Sues Villa Galleria for Sexual Harassment

Restaurant Punished Server/Cashier for Complaining About Abuse, Agency Charged

ST. LOUIS – Villa Enterprises Management, Ltd, Inc., doing business as Villa Galleria, violated federal law by allowing the sexual harassment of a server and cashier at its Villa Galleria restaurant at the Galleria Shopping Mall in St. Louis and retaliating against her for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

In its lawsuit (Case No.4:11-cv-01528), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the EEOC asserted that Villa Galleria allowed Edwonder Hobson to be subjected to unlawful sexual harassment by Brian Jones, an assistant supervisor, which included Jones rubbing his body against Hobson’s, and attempting to put his hands up her shirt and kiss her. Jones engaged in this kind of sexual harassment each time he worked with Hobson, the EEOC said. Further, the agency charged, after Hobson complained, the company retaliated against her by reducing her hours, subjecting her to heightened discipline and scrutiny and inserting false accusations into her personnel record.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

“Employers must take immediate action to stop sexual harassment in the workplace,” said James R. Neely, Jr., District Director for the EEOC's St. Louis District Office. “An employer is only making a bad situation worse by punishing the victim rather than solving the problem.”

Villa Enterprises Management, Ltd., Inc. is a food service organization operating over 300 fast food and full service restaurants in the United States and abroad. It employs over 500 people.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.