Former Culinary Manager Sexually Harassed Female Employees, Federal Agency Said
BALTIMORE - Red Lobster Restaurants LLC will pay $160,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the lawsuit, the then culinary manager at the Red Lobster restaurant in Salisbury, Md., subjected Valerie Serman, Racheal Cox and Jennifer Tolbert to severe and pervasive sexual harassment, including pressing his groin against them, grabbing and groping them. The EEOC charged that the manager also frequently made sexually offensive comments, including remarks about the bodies of female employees and about his genitals. The restaurant's general manager not only failed to take prompt action to stop the sexual harassment, but he too had a history of making vulgar and sexually charged remarks about female employees, the lawsuit claimed.
Subjecting employees to a sexually hostile work environment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Red Lobster Restaurants LLC, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-02860-MJG) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $160,000 in monetary relief to the three claimants, the two-year consent decree enjoins Red Lobster from engaging in or condoning sexual harassment or engaging in unlawful retaliation at its Salisbury facility. The restaurant will provide training to all of its employees at that facility regarding compliance with the federal anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on the prohibitions against sexual harassment and retaliation, and will post a notice regarding the settlement.
"Sexual harassment should not be tolerated by any employer," said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office said. "It's especially pernicious when a manager is the alleged harasser."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Sexual harassment remains a persistent problem in the workplace. The EEOC is pleased that Red Lobster worked with us to resolve this matter and will provide equitable relief and training to prevent sexual harassment and employment discrimination at that location."
The EEOC initially named GMRI, Inc., d/b/a Red Lobster, a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., as the defendant in the lawsuit. Red Lobster was sold by defendant GMRI, and its Salisbury subsidiary is currently operated and managed by Red Lobster Restaurants, LLC, which replaced GMRI as the defendant in the litigation.
The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.