DENVER - A Chili's restaurant in Cañon City, Colorado, violated federal law by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the restaurant's managing partner and assistant manager subjected female servers and hostesses to sexual harassment, including pervasive sexual comments and innuendo. The EEOC alleges that the restaurant failed to take preventative or corrective action when employees complained about the harassment and that some women who could not tolerate the harassment were forced to resign. The EEOC also alleges that management took retaliatory action against some of the female employees who complained about the harassment, including a reduction in scheduled hours.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation and employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation d/b/a Chili's Grill & Bar and Brinker International Payroll Company, L.P., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00970) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
"The EEOC saw a 12 percent rise in the number of sexual harassment charges filed in fiscal year 2018," said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "Preventing sexual harassment remains a priority for the EEOC and the agency will continue to enforce the law when employers allow sexual harassment in their workplaces."
The lawsuit asks the court to order Chili's to provide all the affected women with appropriate relief, including back wages for those forced to resign; compensatory and punitive damages; and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further discriminatory practice based on sex. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
EEOC Denver Field Director Amy Burkholder said, "Employers have an important responsibility to maintain a workplace that is safe and free from sexual harassment. Managers need to be held accountable for their bad behavior and employers should take prompt corrective action when they receive complaints."
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.