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Press Release 09-30-2013

EEOC Sues Red Lobster for Sexual Harassment

Restaurant  Subjected Female Employees to Egregious Sexual Harassment Including Grabbing  and Groping, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE -GMRI, Inc., doing business as Red Lobster,  subjected a class of female employees to pervasive sexual harassment at its  Salisbury, Md., location in violation of federal law, the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

The EEOC  alleged that the restaurant's then culinary manager subjected Valerie Serman,  Racheal Cox and a class of similarly situated female employees to longstanding  sexual harassment including pressing his groin against them, and grabbing and  groping them.  The EEOC further alleged  that the manager made sexually offensive comments, such as frequent remarks  about the bodies of female employees and about his genitals, according to the  lawsuit.     

According  to the EEOC, Red Lobster, failed to take prompt action to stop the sexual  harassment even though the offensive conduct and comments were blatant and  pervasive.  Serman also complained to her  general manager about the harassment, but he not only failed to act, but also had  a history of making vulgar and sexually charged remarks about female employees  himself, 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. GMRI, Inc., d/b/a Red  Lobster, 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.  The EEOC seeks injunctive  relief prohibiting the Red Lobster from engaging in sexual harassment, as well  as compensatory and punitive damages for Serman, Cox and the class of female  employees, and other affirmative relief.

"When companies tolerate sexual harassment, everyone loses,"  said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.   "This lawsuit illustrates yet again that when employers abdicate their  responsibility to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment, then the  EEOC will take action to protect employees from unrelenting harassment  committed and condoned by management officials." 

"No employee should have to endure severe or pervasive sexual  harassment in order to earn a living," added Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of  EEOC's Philadelphia District Office whose jurisdiction includes Maryland.

GMRI,  Inc., d/b/a Red Lobster, is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc.  According to its website,, Darden Restaurants, Inc. is  the world's largest full-service restaurant company.  Through its subsidiaries, it owns and operates  more than 2,100 restaurants and employs more than 200,000 people. 

The  Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland,  Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. 

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination.  Further information  about the Commission is available at its website,