Fuzia Worker Fired for Reporting Harassment, Federal Agency Charges
SAN JOSE — The Good Fork (formerly known as Fuzia Restaurant Group, Inc.), which operates three restaurants in Morgan Hill, Calif., violated federal law when it terminated a worker after she complained to management about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a federal lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC’s investigation found that shortly after Fuzia dishwasher Regina Venegas notified the owner of an incident where her supervisor flashed his buttocks at her, Venegas was not allowed to clock in for her shift and was informed that the restaurant had no more work for her. The agency also noted that Fuzia Restaurant did not have formal policies or procedures for addressing discrimination or harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. After first trying to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. The Good Fork, Civil Action No. CV-12-4386 PSG) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division. The agency seeks monetary relief, including punitive damages, compensatory damages and back pay for Venegas, and the implementation of formal policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace to prevent a recurrence of these issues.
“Punishing an employee who speaks up about discrimination is not only illegal but also toxic to the workplace,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado. “It sends the message to your entire work force that an employee complains at his or her own peril and can encourage harassment to flourish.”
EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo noted that in fiscal year 2011, retaliation charges (37,334) represented 37.8% of all charges filed with the EEOC -- the highest percentage of any claim for that year, and the highest number of retaliation charges ever received by the EEOC in any fiscal year.
Tamayo added, “Obviously, retaliation is a significant problem. It is crucial that employees are able to stand up against harassment without fear that the employer will punish them for speaking out. The EEOC will vigorously protect those employees against retaliation by their employer.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.