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PRESS RELEASE
4-10-09

CRACKER BARREL TO PAY $255,000 FOR SEX HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION; SETTLEMENT INCLUDES TRAINING

EEOC Says Women at Cedar Bluff Store Punished for Complaining About Sexually Hostile Work Environment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, Inc. will pay $255,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s suit (No.3:07-cv-00376 E.D.TN), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Knoxville Division, had charged that Cracker Barrel allowed its general manager, managers, and other male employees to subject a class of women at its Cedar Bluff, Tenn., location to sexual harassment and retaliated against at least two of them. The general managers, other managers and male employees made repeated and unwanted sexual jokes, and lewd remarks, the EEOC said. Further, the agency said, although the women complained to the managers and Cracker Barrel’s 800 number complaint line, the company failed to take action to stop the harassment, and the general manager and other supervisors retaliated against women who had complained by moving one to an area where tips were low.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

Besides paying monetary relief, the three-year consent decree signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan resolving the lawsuit:

  • Enjoins Cracker Barrel from discriminating because of sexual harassment and retaliation and requires the company to modify its policies and practices regarding the investigation of sexual harassment claims;
  • Requires the company to conduct annual training on sexual harassment and retaliation for all employees at the restaurant for three years; and
  • Requires Cracker Barrel to maintain and report complaints of harassment received for three years and post its sexual harassment policy, including its 800 hotline number for reporting such claims; post a statement that it will investigate anonymous claims of sexual harassment; and post the notice poster and a notice regarding the settlement.

“Under federal law, employers are required to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Faye Williams of the Memphis District Office. “This settlement demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to eliminating such conduct from the workplace. Further, the settlement institutes key measures in the workplace to prevent future misconduct like this.”

According to its web site, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is a chain of “Old Country Stores,” each combining a retail store and a restaurant. Founded and headquartered in Lebanon, Tenn., Cracker Barrel operates 581 full-service locations located in 41 states.

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