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Press Release 07-05-2017

Paolo's Ristorante to Pay $50,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit

Georgetown Eatery Routinely Subjected 18-Year-Old Gay Male Server to Homophobic Taunts and Epithets, Federal Agency Charged

WASHINGTON - Paolo's Ristorante, a restaurant in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown neighborhood, will pay $50,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a sexual orientation harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that Alejandro Hernandez, an 18-year-old gay male employee who worked at Paolo's as a server, was routinely subjected to unwelcome harassing and offensive behavior that included the use of homophobic epithets and taunting him about his sexuality. These remarks included asking him about sexual scenarios with women that might "turn" him "straight." Hernandez reported the harassment to Paolo's management, but, in response to his complaints, he was accused of being "too sensitive."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination because of sex. Several federal courts and the EEOC have concluded that harassment and other discrimination because of sexual orientation is prohibited sex discrimination. The EEOC filed suit against Paolo's in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (EEOC v. Capital Restaurant Concepts, Ltd. d/b/a Paolo's - GT LLC, Case No. 1:16-cv-02477), 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, Paolo's will pay $50,000 in monetary relief to Hernandez. The decree also enjoins Paolo's from engaging in sex discrimination or retaliation in the future. The company will also revise and distribute to its employees a complaint procedure and harassment policy and train its supervisors and employees on the revised 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 said. "We are pleased to have reached this favorable resolution at an early juncture in this litigation."

Mindy Weinstein, acting director of the Washington Field Office, added, "We commend Mr. Hernandez, who, despite his young age, bravely stood up for what is right and changed this workplace for the better as a result."

Addressing emerging and developing issues, especially coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan. The agency has posted materials on its website relating to coverage under Title VII for LGBT individuals. In addition, in June 2015, the agency, in coordination with the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Special Counsel, and the Merit Systems Protection Board, developed a guide for federal agencies on addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in federal civilian employment.

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.