WHEELING, W.V. – Route 22 Sports Bar, Inc. and Crazy Mexican Restaurant & Grill, LLC, two restaurants in Weirton, W.V., will pay $217,500 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation suit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the male spouse of an owner of the two restaurants, who, the EEOC alleged, possessed broad authority over the businesses and their employees, subjected a female bartender and other employees to severe, unwanted and offensive sexual harassment, including luring female employees to his secluded office, propositioning certain female workers for sex, and subjecting them to unwanted sexual touching and comments. Other male coworkers also frequently sexually harassed female workers. The EEOC’s lawsuit further charged that the restaurant owners retaliated against the female bartender for complaining about the harassment by firing her.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment and discrimination because of sex. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees because they oppose harassment or discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v. Route 22 Sports Bar, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 5:21-cv-00007) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia after first attempting to reach voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The parties voluntarily agreed to settle the case by entry of a consent decree, which has now been approved by the federal court. In addition to paying $217,500 in monetary relief to the female bartender and a class of other female workers, the restaurants will provide significant equitable relief, including: prohibiting the owner’s male spouse from holding any supervisory position and having any direct contact with employees while acting on behalf of either restaurant; adopting robust sexual harassment and anti-retaliation policies; establishing a complaint procedure for employees to report harassment or retaliation; providing specialized training on conducting sexual harassment investigations; and consenting to EEOC compliance monitoring and reporting requirements.
“Fostering a workplace free from harassment and retaliation requires holding owners and supervisors accountable for their actions,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “The EEOC is committed to protecting service industry workers from perpetrators of sex discrimination, especially those who abuse their positions of authority.”
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “Restaurant workers are vital to our economy. They, like all workers, deserve to make a living without being subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation.”
The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC’s Pittsburgh Area Office, one of four component offices of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. The Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.