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Press Release 01-23-2017

"5th & Wine" Bar Sued By EEOC For Sex-Based Harassment and Retaliation

Scottsdale Wine Café Abused Employees Based on Their Actual and Perceived Sexual Orientation, Federal Agency Charges

PHOENIX - Scottsdale Wine Café, LLC (5th & Wine), a Scottsdale wine bar and restaurant, violated federal law by subjecting two of its male employees to a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation and by retaliating against one employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Friday, January 20, 2017.

EEOC said that 5th & Wine allowed its management and line staff to harass two male servers based on their actual and perceived sexual orientation. The alleged harassment included egregious name calling, comments, innuendos and touching. Although the two employees complained to their supervisors, the supervisors did nothing about the conduct, and, in some instances, actually participated in the harassment, according to the federal agency. When one of the employees mentioned that he planned on taking legal action against 5th & Wine, the company fired him.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, as well as retaliation for complaining about it. EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Scottsdale Wine Café, LLC d/b/a 5th and Wine, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-00182-BSB, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the two former employees, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.

The lawsuit announced today is part of EEOC's ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which it renewed in 2016. The SEP includes "[p]rotecting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination based on sex" as a Commission enforcement priority.

"Federal law protects against all forms of discrimination based on sex," said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Employers cannot allow harassment based on sexual orientation, whether actual or perceived."

Elizabeth Cadle, district director of EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "We must make sure that employees are not punished for standing up to unlawful misconduct in the workplace. We encourage employers to take complaints of harassment seriously and to make every effort to prevent such abuse - for everyone's benefit."

EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).

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.