Upscale Chain Settles After Litigation Revealed Head Chef Fondled Male Employees
PHOENIX —Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, Ariz., will pay nearly a quarter million dollars and furnish other relief to settle a same-sex sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s suit (CV-07683-PHX-SMM), which was brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, charged that male employees who worked at Fleming’s in Scottsdale, a fine dining steak house, were sexually abused by the head chef, Tod Rawson. The evidence gathered during the EEOC’s investigation revealed that, among other things, Rawson frequently pinched or squeezed his subordinates’ private parts, flicked their genitals with his bare hands, and groped them from behind. Rawson even used kitchen utensils from the restaurant to touch his victims’ genitals through their clothing, the EEOC said. Evidence uncovered during the lawsuit also revealed that several managers at Fleming’s knew what was happening well before formal charges were filed but did nothing to stop it. After several internal complaints, a formal EEOC charge was filed.
“The key lesson we want people to take from this case: employers must protect their employees from sexual harassment,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “This means doing a meaningful internal investigation designed to find the truth and not designed to merely cover tracks. Also, employers must immediately stop further sexual harassment from occurring. Here, not only did Fleming’s not fire the harasser, they let him continue the harassment for more than a year and a half before allowing him to resign. When employers prove incapable of addressing these toxic situations, the EEOC is ready to right these wrongs.”
Rayford Irvin, District Director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “We want the public to know that sexual harassment isn’t just about misconduct between men and women. It includes sexually abusive behavior between people of the same sex also. Regardless of your gender or anyone else’s, you don’t have to tolerate sexual harassment.”
The EEOC Phoenix District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, with offices in Albuquerque and Denver.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.