Owner Subjected Female Employees to a Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex, Federal Agency Charges
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Protocol of Amherst, Inc., doing business as Protocol Restaurant in Buffalo, violated federal law by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Paul Pelczynski, the restaurant's owner, president and general manager, made unwelcome sexual advances and comments to female employees, including requests for sex; repeated invitations for drinks, dinner and sharing a hotel room; and comments about the bodies of female employees and customers. The agency further alleges that Pelczynski engaged in inappropriate contact with female employees, including grabbing their buttocks, kissing them, and routinely brushing up against them. Pelczynski also displayed pornography at work in view of employees and sent a group text to employees with pornography in the background, according to the EEOC.
Finally, the EEOC charges that Protocol discharged female employees who objected to Pelczynski's conduct or rejected his advances, and that other female employees quit because they could no longer endure the hostile work environment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is prohibited by the statute.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Protocol of Amherst, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00598) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Buffalo Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the affected employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future sexual harassment in the workplace.
"Owning a business is not a license to sexually harass employees," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office. "Business owners have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment, and the EEOC is prepared to take strong action where an owner abuses his authority."
Kevin Berry, director of the New York District Office, said, "No one should be forced to endure sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact to earn a living. The EEOC is committed to ensuring that all workers are free from sexual harassment on the job."
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The agency's Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
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.