Royal Palm Beach Restaurant Permitted Class of Female Employees to be Sexually Harassed by Patron, Federal Agency Charged
WEST PALM BEACH – The owner/operator of a Hurricane Grill and Wings restaurant franchise in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., will pay $200,000 to settle a class sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (EEOC v. 441 S.B. LLC., d/b/a Hurricane Grill and Wings, Case No. 11-CIV-80766-DMM in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida) charges that the company violated federal law when it permitted a class of female servers to be sexually harassed by a customer, a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy. Later, the EEOC said, the company fired a female server after management learned she had hired a private attorney to assist her in filing an EEOC complaint.
The suit alleges that the servers were frequently grabbed on their breasts and buttocks and humiliated by sexual innuendo, as well as direct invitations to join the harasser and his wife in ménage a trois.
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.
While the case was pending, 441 S.B. LLC, sold its interest in the Royal Palm Beach location to Hurricane Wings Management of Royal Palm Beach, LLC. As successors in interest, Hurricane Wings Management agreed to be a party to the suit for purposes of complying with future relief, including anti-harassment training required by the consent decree.
While 441 S.B. LLC is responsible for the $200,000 monetary settlement, Hurricane Wings Management has agreed to amend and redistribute its sexual harassment policy; offer training to all employees, including management; post a notice regarding its continued effort to ensure that the Royal Palm Beach location is free of sexual harassment and its intent not to retaliate further; monitoring and reporting to the EEOC; and a written request for the offending patron to stay away from the facility.
EEOC’s Miami District Director Malcolm Medley noted, “The Commission remains poised to enforce Title VII and it will actively pursue flagrant violations such as this one. Employees should feel safe at work and employers must protect their employees from a sexually hostile work environment.”
“Title VII requires an employer to prevent known sexual harassment created by other employees or customers” said EEOC’s Miami regional attorney, Robert E. Weisberg, “Hurricane Grill and Wings has a responsibility to protect their employees regardless of the status of the harasser. A high percentage of sexual harassment charges are filed by women in the restaurant industry and this decree will serve to protect the rights of a particularly vulnerable segment of the work force.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.