Federal Agency Says Legendary Chicago Pizzeria Refuses to Honor Deal to Resolve Multiple Sexual Harassment Claims
CHICAGO - Leona's Pizzeria, Inc. has refused to abide by the terms of a conciliation agreement reached with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to resolve a class-wide sexual harassment finding, according to a lawsuit filed by the federal agency in court today.
According to EEOC, an administrative investigation into Leona's employment practices revealed that Angela Flores and a class of female employees were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment at one of the restaurants in the famous chain of Chicago pizzerias. After the EEOC investigation concluded with a finding of "reasonable cause" to believe the charges of sexual harassment, the EEOC, as required by federal statute, invited Leona's to settle the allegations through process described in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as "conciliation" and without litigation.
In July 2012, the EEOC and Leona's entered into an agreement under which Leona's agreed to pay the victims of the sexual harassment a total of $75,000. In addition, Leona's agreed to conduct training of it employees;
revise its non-discrimination policy; post a notice of
the settlement; and report to EEOC its compliance with the agreement. Since that time, however, Leona's has refused to honor any of its obligations under the settlement agreement.
Failing to adhere to a conciliation agreement with the EEOC violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The suit is captioned EEOC v. Leona's Pizzeria, Inc., N.D. Illinois No. 1:12-cv-07335 and has been assigned to District Judge James B. Zagel. The federal agency is seeking enforcement of all terms the conciliation agreement, as well as its costs for having to bring this action in federal court.
"The EEOC takes the conciliation process very seriously -- as it should, since it is mandated by federal law," said John Rowe, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, who managed the investigation. "We negotiated with Leona's in good faith to resolve the sexual misconduct allegations without forcing the company into court. Now that the company is attempting to walk away from a deal it freely made, we have no choice except to take it to court."
John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, said, "Congress put the conciliation process into the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to give employers the chance to quietly and quickly deal with discrimination and to get on with their business. When Leona's or any other employer attempts to run away from a conciliation agreement, it signals contempt for the law, makes a mockery of the statutory conciliation process, and damages the victims and the public interest. The EEOC is not going to stand by and watch that happen without taking action."
The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, 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 is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.