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EEOC Sues El Sombrero for Sex Harassment and Retaliation

Restaurants Condoned a Hostile Work Environment For Female Employees, and Fired Employees Who Complained, Federal Agency Charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - El Sombrero Restaurant with locations in Vicksburg and Byram, Miss. created a sexually hostile work environment and retaliated against female employees who complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commi­ssion (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, female employees of El Sombrero were subjected to unwanted sexual touching and sexually inappropriate comments about their bodies, and were openly solicited for sex acts in exchange for money. Supervisors condoned such conduct and some supervisors also participated in the harassment. One female employee was subjected to a sexual assault by a co-worker and was fired for complaining to a manager that she did not want to work the same shifts as the harasser, while the harasser was permitted to continue his employment. El Sombrero reduced the work hours and fired female employees who complained or cooperated with the EEOC's investigation of the restaurants.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliating against employees who complain about sexual harassment

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. El Sombrero of Vicksburg, Inc., Luis Angel d/b/a El Sombrero d/b/a El Sombrero of Byram., Case No. 3:19-cv-00698-HTW-LRA) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary concili­ation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the victims, including compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

"Title VII requires employers to provide a workplace free from sexual harassment," said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. "The EEOC is committed to ensuring employees feel free to report discrimination and will aggressively pursue remedies for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace."

Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "El Sombrero fostered a highly sexualized environment where supervisors and line-employees alike subjected female employees to severe or pervasive harassment.  Employees should not have to tolerate such harassment to keep their jobs."

The EEOC's Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.

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