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EEOC Sues Zaxby's For Retaliation

Federal Agency Charges Restaurant Fired Two Employees For Protesting Sexual Harassment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Seymour ZX, LLC, operating a Zaxby’s restaurant in Seymour, Tenn., violated federal law by firing two employees for protesting sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed September 30, 2009.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 3:09-cv-0434) in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division) alleges that Seymour ZX, LLC, a franchisee of Zaxby’s, fired two employees after they complained about sexual harassment. Both employees were fired on the same day, the EEOC said, and banned from the store.

“Punishing employees for complaining about sexual harassment is illegal and only makes a bad situation worse,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.

Retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from taking action against employees who complain about alleged unlawful employment practices. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting similar discrimination in the future, and to order Seymour ZX, LLC to reinstate the two former employees and to pay compensatory damages for emotional and psychological harm as well as punitive damages.

Katharine W. Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, said, “We have observed an increase in retaliation claims at the EEOC. Employers cannot ignore the fact that employees have a federal right to voice their opposition to perceived violations of Title VII without fear of repercussion, such as discharge. Discharging employees who exercise their rights to complain about discrimination is a violation of federal law and will be vigorously enforced by the Commission.”

Seymour ZX, LLC is a Georgia corporation and a franchisee of Zaxby’s, a chain of restaurants selling chicken items in 11 states at more than 485 locations. Seymour ZX, LLC has a number of restaurants in the Southeast, including Sevierville and Coby, Tenn., Cherokee, N.C., and Maumelle and Little Rock, Ark.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at