Two Female Servers Sexually Harassed and One Fired for Complaining About Harassment and Slurs Against Blacks, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - Rosebud Restaurants, Inc. will pay $160,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC's lawsuit charged Rosebud, which owns approximately nine Italian restaurants in the Chicagoland area, with violating federal civil rights laws when it subjected two women to sexual harassment, and fired one of the women after she complained about the harassment and objected to employees referring to African-Americans by racial slurs.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Tina Rosenthal, who worked as a server at Rosebud's now-closed Centro location in Chicago, was sexually harassed by another server in 2013. The alleged harassment included unwelcome sexual comments, sexual propositions, unwelcome touching and assaulting Rosenthal by grabbing her between her legs. Rosenthal complained about the harassment to managers, but Rosebud did not take adequate steps to address her complaints, the EEOC said. In addition, Rosenthal, who is white, objected during a company meeting to employees using racial slurs to refer to blacks. A few weeks later, according to the EEOC, Rosebud fired Rosenthal for pretextual reasons.
In May 2018, the EEOC amended its complaint to seek relief for other women who it believed were subjected to sexual harassment at Rosebud. During the litigation, it identified another woman who was allegedly sexually harassed in 2014 while working at Centro by the same server who had harassed Rosenthal.
Sexual harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit on Sept. 20, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (Civil Action No. 17 6815), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In September 2013, the EEOC sued Rosebud for failing to hire African-American applicants because of their race. That suit settled in May 2017 with a four-year consent decree providing $1.9 million in monetary relief for black applicants who were denied jobs at Rosebud and requiring hiring goals for African-Americans, recruiting of black applicants, monitoring of Rosebud's hiring practices, and anti-discrimination training.
U.S. District Judge John Blakey signed the order entering the consent decree resolving the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit on Oct. 15, 2018. In addition to providing for $160,000 in monetary relief to the harassed women, the decree prohibits Rosebud from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation in the future. Further, Rosebud must provide annual training to all its employees regarding sexual harassment during the decree's two-year term and provide semi-annual reports to the EEOC of any complaints about harassment or retaliation.
"This case is an unfortunate example of what happens when an employer fails to act on a harassment complaint," said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office. "If Rosebud had taken Ms. Rosenthal's complaint seriously, it may have been able to prevent another woman from being abused. Instead, the harasser faced no consequences when Rosenthal complained and was undeterred from harassing again."
Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's Chicago District director, added, "Rosebud then made a bad situation worse by turning around and firing Ms. Rosenthal for complaining about harassment and racially offensive comments. Retaliatory termination is illegal, and the EEOC will not tolerate it. For employment discrimination laws to be meaningful, employees need to be able to raise concerns about discrimination and harassment without fear of reprisal."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, 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 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.