Restaurants Allowed Employees to Harass Male and Female Workers, Federal Agency Charges
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Carmel restaurants owned and operated by JCFB, Inc. agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of male and female kitchen staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a male line cook at Porta Bella Restaurant suffered repeated inappropriate grabbing of his private parts by the kitchen manager, cook and chef. When he reported the conduct to Porta Bella's owners, they dismissed the behavior and said, "They only play." Afterwards, the chef became confrontational, and yelled and hit the line cook, forcing him to quit. The EEOC alleged JCFB failed to adequately investigate or discipline the harassers.
The EEOC also sued on behalf of a female dishwasher employed at Mediterranean Restaurant who endured daily sexual comments and occasional unwanted physical touching by the same kitchen manager that harassed the Porta Bella line cook. Although she informed another manager of the harassment, the sexual comments continued.
Such alleged conduct 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 voluntary conciliation process.
The three-year consent decree orders JCFB to pay $175,000 to the two former employees and requires the company to provide anti-harassment training to all employees at both restaurants. In addition, JCFB will hire an external consultant to monitor and investigate any future reports of a hostile work environment.
EEOC San Jose Local Office Director Rosa Salazar said, "We are pleased JCFB will institute effective HR practices for training, investigating and, where appropriate, disciplining its staff to curb harassment at its restaurants." She said combatting workplace harassment is a top priority of the EEOC's 2017-2021 Strategic Enforcement Plan.
EEOC San Francisco Senior Trial Attorney Raymond Cheung said, "No matter whether the unwelcome conduct is verbal or physical and reported by a male or female employee, employers must take charges of harassment seriously. This case demonstrates the EEOC's commitment to ensure vulnerable workers in the service industries are protected from a hostile work environment."
JCFB, Inc. is a private company that operates restaurants in Carmel, California, including Porta Bella and Mediterranean Restaurant.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov including specific resources for addressing workplace harassment. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.