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Press Release 09-19-2014

EEOC Sues Doherty Enterprises over Mandatory Arbitration Agreement

Restaurant Franchiser  Unlawfully Barred New Hires From Filing  Discrimination Charges, Federal  Agency Charges

MIAMI - Doherty Enterprises, Inc.,  a regional company that owns and operates over 140 franchise restaurants,  including Applebee's and Panera Bread locations scattered throughout Florida,  Georgia, New Jersey and New York, unlawfully violated its employees' right to  file charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC), the federal agency charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

According to the EEOC, Doherty  requires each prospective employee to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement as  a condition of employment.  The agreement  mandates that all employment-related claims -- which would otherwise allow  resort to the EEOC -- shall be submitted to and deter­mined exclusively by  binding arbitration.  The agreement  interferes with employees' rights to file discrimination charges, the agency  says.

Interfering  with these employee rights violates Section 707 of Title VII of the Civil  Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employer conduct that constitutes a pattern  or practice of resistance to the rights protected by Title VII.  Section 707 permits the EEOC to seek  immediate relief without the same presuit administrative process that is  required under Section 706 of Title VII, and does not require that the agency's  suit arise from a discrimination charge.

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S.  District Court for the Southern District of Florida (EEOC v. Doherty Enterprises, Inc., Civil Action No.  9:14-cv-81184-KAM).  The suit has been  assigned to U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra.

"Employee communication with the  EEOC is integral to the agency's mission of eradicating employment  discrimination," explained EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg.  "When an employer forces all complaints about  employment discrimination into confidential arbitration, it shields itself from  federal oversight of its employment practices.   This practice violates the law, and the EEOC will take action to deter  further use of these types of overly broad arbitration agreements."

EEOC District Director Malcolm  Medley added, "Preserving access to the legal system is one of the EEOC's six  strategic enforcement priorities adopted in its Strategic Enforcement Plan.  When an employer seeks to deter people from  exercising their federally protected Title VII rights, the EEOC is uniquely  situated to seek an end to such unlawful practices, and to ensure the necessary  safeguards are in place to allow employees to participate in the EEOC's charge  filing process."

The EEOC is responsible for  enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  The Miami  District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida,  Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.   Further information is available at