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Press Release 08-12-2021

EEOC Sues Applebee’s Franchisee for Sexual Orientation and Race Discrimination, Retaliation and Constructive Discharge

Employer Permitted Racist and Homophobic Slurs, and Cut Hours of Employee Who Complained, Federal Agency Charges

TAMPA, Fla. – Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC, doing business as Applebee’s, violated federal law by subjecting an employee to race and sexual orientation discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The EEOC charges that the Plant City, Fla., Applebee’s subjected a Black line cook to a hostile work environment based on his sexual orientation and race and retaliated against him for complaining, leading to his being forced out from his job.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee’s workplace was permeated with racial and homophobic slurs. In addition to using anti-gay and racist epithets, Applebee’s employees wore Confederate flag paraphernalia. When the line cook complained about the treatment, he was told to “ignore it,” and his hours were drastically cut, and he was forced to quit his job because of all this mistreatment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC v. Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC, Case No. 8:21-cv-01931-VMC-JSS) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Over one year ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to individuals who are discriminated in the workplace based on their sexual orientation,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “While the EEOC recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Bostock decision, this case demonstrates that the work is not over. The EEOC will aggressively investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute employers that violate the rights of their LGBTQ employees.”
EEOC Tampa Field Office Director Evangeline Hawthorne added, “When an employer learns about discrimination in the workplace, it must take prompt action designed to stop the behavior. All too often, however, we see employers making a bad situation worse by retaliating against the victim rather than taking steps to stop the harassment. The EEOC will hold employers accountable for their actions.”

The EEOC's Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.