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Rafael’s Italian Restaurant Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment

Restaurant Chain Ignores Repeated Complaints of Sexual Harassment by Female Employees, Federal Agency Charges

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Rafael’s Italian Restaurant, a Tennessee restaurant chain, violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees, including some teenagers, to sexual harassment at a Tullahoma, Tenn., restaurant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC charged that the company ignored repeated complaints of sexual harassment made by several women to management starting as far back as 2005. The EEOC alleged that male kitchen workers repeatedly subjected female employees, two of whom were teens at the time, to egregious acts of sexual harassment including crude comments, requests for sex, and physical touching -- which encompassed using vegetables to simulate sodomy and to hit the victims between their legs. Although several of the women made repeated complaints to the store manager and the store owner about the treatment, management failed to address the problem.

Failure to correct known sexual harassment, whether by a co-worker or customer, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Winchester Division, Civil Action No. 4:10-cv-00070, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement, and an injunction against future discrimination.

“Allowing serial harassers to repeatedly victimize female employees without facing consequences is plainly and simply illegal,” said EEOC Memphis District Director Katharine Kores. “Restaurant owners and managers must take serious action to stop this sort of abuse when they receive complaints of sexual harassment from their employees, especially when these complaints are coming from teenagers who are in the work force for the first time in their lives.” 

Rafael’s Italian Restaurant is one of several restaurants operated by Santos Macias across Tennessee.

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