Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Pays Out $250,000

On December 7, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had reached a settlement agreement in a widely publicized case of same-sex sexual harassment. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, a Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant, will pay out $248,750 to three men who alleged that they had been groped, fondled, and harassed sexually by DC Ranch chef, Tod Rawson. According to the EEOC complaint, the male kitchen workers had complained to multiple managers at Fleming’s about the harassment, but nothing was done to end it. The EEOC allegations painted a graphic picture: “Rawson frequently pinched or squeezed his subordinates’ private parts, flicked their genitals with his bare hands, and groped them from behind. Rawson even used kitchen utensils from the restaurant to touch his victims’ genitals through their clothing.”

Speaking on behalf of Fleming’s, Executive Vice President Joseph Kadow said that the restaurant had “acted responsibly” and that the company settled the EEOC lawsuit “without admitting liability” – in other words, the restaurant simply paid out to avoid the hassle and headaches of continuing litigation.

Mary Jo O’Neill, a regional attorney for the EEOC, made it clear that the agency wanted to send a message: “The key lesson we want people to take from this case: Employers must protect their employees from sexual harassment.”

As this blog and others that discuss issues like gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour violations at restaurants have described, restaurant employees – even employees who work at high profile New York City eateries – often find themselves subjected to diverse kinds of mistreatment. For instance, a manager may illegally take a percentage of a waiter’s tips. Or employees may be expected to work overtime without getting overtime pay. Restaurant employees may labor under hostile work environments – subjected to inappropriate sexual comments, racial comments, or other abuse.

Furthermore, restaurant workers may not have the time, knowledge, or resources to know how to stop the destructive behavior. An employee’s complaint to a supervisor may go unanswered. Or the behavior may stop temporarily only to start up again, spontaneously, weeks or months later. An unresponsive complaints system may lead mistreated employees to abandon hope of a fair and just resolution.

Fortunately, resources abound for mistreated workers — at restaurants and elsewhere. If you or a coworker or someone you care about has been fighting against on-the-job harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or other inappropriate behavior, look to the law firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum for guidance. Call (212) 688-5640 right now to schedule a consultation, or learn more about the options available to you at www.jhllp.com.