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PRESS RELEASE
8-22-11

EEOC Sues New Pine Ridge Restaurant For Sexual Harassment And Retaliation

Multiple Women Were Abused at Merrill, Wis., Restaurant; Some Were Fired for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges

MADISON,  Wis. – New  Pine Ridge Restaurant in Merrill, Wis., violated federal law by allowing female  employees to be sexually harassed and not acting to stop it, the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed  today.

According to John Rowe, director of EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes  Wisconsin, the  agency’s investigation revealed that one of the restaurant’s cooks, Shahi N.  Selmani, created a sexually hostile work environment when he repeatedly made crude  remarks to waitresses and grabbed their breasts. The EEOC charged that despite  complaints from the waitresses, the restaurant’s owner, Qemal Alimi, took no action to stop Selmani’s harassment,  and that some of the women were fired in retaliation for complaining  about the sexually hostile work environment.

Selmani did not stop working for the restaurant until  months after the Lincoln County District Attorney began an investigation which  led to Selmani pleading no contest on Dec. 9, 2010, to having committed Class A  misdemeanor battery against three  waitresses (Case Nos. 2009CM25 and 2009CM101, Lincoln County Circuit  Court). Three other misdemeanors  – fourth-degree sexual assault, bail jumping and disorderly conduct – were  dismissed but “read into” the record of Selmani’s conviction.

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 pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The agency seeks lost wages and  compensatory and punitive damages for Sherry L. Brown and a class of similarly situated  female employees, in addition to an order barring future discrimination, and  other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Merrill Pine Ridge LLC d/b/a New Pine Ridge Restaurant (Civil  Action No. 3:11-cv-00589), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western  District of Wisconsin in Madison.

On July 7, 2011, in a similar case  in Forest County (Case No. 2011CM30), Selmani pled no contest to two more  counts of Class A misdemeanor battery and, among other things, was ordered to  “participate [in] and complete a sex offender treatment program . . . .”

“The Supreme Court has held that  when an employer learns of sexual harassment, it must take immediate,  appropriate, and effective action to stop it,” Rowe said. “Here  the EEOC contends that the owner was aware of the harassment but took no  action, and women suffered as a result.”

EEOC Chicago  Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said, “Women have the same right as men to earn a living in an environment free  from sexual harassment. Employers, whether  large or small, who don’t protect their workers’ rights should know that the  federal government will enforce our national policy against sexual abuse in the  workplace.”

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