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Press Release 08-09-2019

El Tio Tex-Mex Grill to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Harassment Lawsuit

Virginia Eatery Routinely Subjected Gay Male Server and His Straight Friend to Homophobic Taunts and Epithets, Federal Agency Charged

WASHINGTON - Mejia Corporation, doing business as El Tio Tex-Mex Grill, a restaurant in Gainesville, Va., will pay $40,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that El Tio employees, including other servers and kitchen staff, routinely subjected a gay male server to unwelcome harassing and offensive behavior that included the use of homophobic epithets and taunts about his sexuality. The same employees similarly harassed the server's straight friend, a busser, based on their friendship. Both the server and the busser reported the harassment to El Tio's management multiple times, but management ignored their complaints, failed to take reasonable measures to curb the harassment, and neglected to implement any anti-harassment policies or training, the EEOC alleged.  As a result, the harassment persisted.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of sex, including harassment. The EEOC filed suit against El Tio in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (EEOC v. Mejia Corp., d/b/a El Tio Tex-Mex Grill, Case No. 1:18-cv-01226-MSN), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

To settle the case, the parties entered into a three-year consent decree. Under the decree, El Tio will pay $40,000 in monetary relief to the server and the busser. The decree also enjoins El Tio from engaging in sex discrimination or retaliation in the future. The company will also draft and distribute to its employees a complaint procedure and harassment policy and train its supervisors and employees on the new policies, as well as workplace harassment issues.

"The EEOC is committed to ensuring that no employee or applicant is discriminated against or harassed based on sexual orientation," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "We are gratified that El Tio worked with the EEOC to reach an amicable resolution of this lawsuit. The consent decree includes significant equitable relief that will benefit all company employees."

Mindy Weinstein, acting director of the Washington Field Office, added, "We commend these employees who bravely stood up for what is right and changed this workplace for the better as a result."

The Washington Field Office has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and the Virginia counties of Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Warren; and the independent Virginia cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.