Manager Inappropriately Touched Young Woman, Forcing Her to Quit, Federal Agency Charged
ST. LOUIS – A small chain of Nebraska restaurants will pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC alleged El Vallarta violated federal discrimination law by allowing a manager and other workers at its Gretna, Neb., location to sexually harass a teenage female employee.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the male manager grabbed the young woman’s bottom while making a sexual comment to her, and male coworkers repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments about her body. After her mother contacted the restaurant to complain, the manager showed up at her house twice, causing great distress to her and her family. The EEOC said that the harassment forced the teen to quit her job. With her mother’s assistance, the young woman filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, and forbids retaliation against workers who complain about such discrimination. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska (Equal Employment Opportunity Com¬mission, et al. v. El Vallarta, LLC, et al., Case No. 8:18-cv-522), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
A five-year consent decree entered by Judge Brian C. Buescher provides for $85,000 in monetary damages for the young woman and an apology from the restaurants’ owner. In addition, the decree enjoins the three El Vallarta restaurants from violating Title VII in the future and requires training for all employees to prevent future harassment and to ensure workers under¬stand their right to be free from sexual harassment on the job. The decree further requires the restaurants to provide periodic reporting to the EEOC regarding any future allegations of sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is always harmful, but the effects can be particularly devastating when the harasser is a manager with control and authority over a vulnerable teenage worker,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis. “We are pleased that the relief obtained in this decree will, with the owner’s commitment and the EEOC’s oversight, create a safe and respectful workplace for this restaurant’s employees going forward.”
L. Jack Vasquez, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District office, added, “Too often the close working conditions, fast-paced environment, high turnover, and presence of inexperienced workers in the restaurant industry allow unlawful harassment to thrive. It is critical that owners and managers use training and clear messaging to all workers to proactively prevent and stop unwelcome sexual comments and other harassing conduct.”
The EEOC’s Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/) presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination, including curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.