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PRESS RELEASE
1-31-19

EEOC Sues Carmel Restaurants for Sexual Harassment

Restaurants Allowed Employees to Grope Male and Female Workers, Federal Agency Charges

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Carmel eateries Porta Bella and Mediterranean Restaurants, both owned by JCFB, Inc., violated federal law by permitting employees to sexually harass male and female kitchen staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a male line cook at Porta Bella Restaurant suffered repeated groping of his private parts by the kitchen manager, cook and chef.  When he reported the conduct to Porta Bella's owners, they dismissed the inappropriate touching by the kitchen manager and cook, claiming "they only play."  But after he reported the chef grabbing his genitals, the chef became confrontational, yelling at the line cook, hitting him twice and aggressively scrutinizing and criticizing his plating of meals.  Porta Bella's owners sought to discipline the line cook for leaving the restaurant after he became upset by the chef's actions, so he quit due to the unchecked and ongoing harassment and hostility.

The EEOC also found a female dishwasher employed at Mediterranean Restaurant faced daily sexual comments and physical touching by the same kitchen manager who harassed the Porta Bella line cook.  The harassment included the manager sticking his tongue in her ear, sliding his hand up her shirt to grab her breast, and offering to pay her for sex.  Although she informed another manager of the harassment, the sexual comments continued.

Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.  The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. JCFB, Inc., Case No. 5:19-CV-0052) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process,. The EEOC seeks money damages for the two workers and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent sexual harassment from recurring at restaurants operated by JCFB, Inc.

EEOC San Jose Local Office Director Rosa Salazar said, "Employers must protect their workers from harassment and sexual abuse, no matter whether filed by a male or female employee.  These workers notified their management, but their employer failed to take prompt, effective action as federal law requires it to do."

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney Roberta Steele said, "This bullet point from the EEOC's Select Task Force on Workplace Harassment checklists for employers bears repeating: 'take reports seriously'. Advising employees to 'just ignore' bad behavior and dismissing harassment as mere horseplay are red flags an organization needs to re-examine its workplace culture and anti-harassment policy."

JCFB, Inc. is a private company owned by Bashar Sneeh and Faisai Nimiri that operates three restaurants in Carmel, California: Porta Bella, Mediterranean Restaurant and Dametra Cafe. 

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.