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PRESS RELEASE
9-27-10

EEOC Sues Barnhouse Restaurant in Kewanee for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

Illinois Restaurant Near Quad Cities Illegally Targeted Female Employees

CHICAGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on September 23 charging that Levidion, Inc., doing business as the Barnhouse Restaurant, violated federal law by sexually harassing female employees and retaliating against employees who complained about it. The EEOC also asserted that the harassment was so intolerable that several women were forced to resign their jobs to avoid the harassment. Barnhouse Restaurant is located in Kewanee, Ill., near the Quad Cities, which span the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois and Iowa.

John Rowe, the EEOC district director in Chicago, said the agency's administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that the Barnhouse's owners and cooks sexually harassed female waitresses by calling them derogatory names, making sexual comments to them, propositioning them, or touching them inappropriately. Several waitresses allegedly complained about the harassment, and their complaints were either ignored, or resulted in managers taking retaliatory action against them, the EEOC said. For example, management assigned fewer customers one of the discrimination victims after she complained, which resulted in her earning few tips. Another victim was transferred from the day shift to night shift after she complained, the EEOC said.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for the women who were harassed and retaliated against, in addition to injunctive relief to end the discriminatory practices. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Levidion, Inc., d/b/a Barnhouse Restaurant (Civil Action No. 42:10-cv-04068), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Rock Island and assigned to U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm.

“Unfortunately, here we have another example of an all-too-common scenario – female servers and other restaurant workers being targeted for egregious sexual harassment,” John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said. “Women in these jobs are often at the bottom of the economic ladder and they desperately need to keep working – they are really vulnerable. The treatment they sometimes receive from male bosses drives home the point that sexual harassment is usually more about power than sex. But whatever it’s about, it’s terribly hurtful to real people and illegal. That’s why the EEOC continues to treat sexual harassment as a serious issue and to pursue cases like this one.”

The EEOC's litigation effort will be lead by Trial Attorney Ann Henry and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.