An IHOP restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which alleged that management of the IHOP was sexually harassing female employees.
The EEOC alleged that the IHOP franchise owner and manager sexually harassed female employees through unwelcome touching, stalking, and sexual comments. Female servers were repeatedly asked to go out to dinner and groped in a back-storage room and suffered negative changes in their work schedule when they rejected the sexual advances. Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.
The settlement requires the owner and manager to receive one-on-one training for sexual harassment and the restaurant must develop and distribute a comprehensive anti-harassment policy to all its employees and provide anti-harassment training. It must also provide an employee hotline phone number operated by a third-party to report complaints. The restaurant must also notify its employees of the settlement, hire an independent EEO Consultant to monitor and investigate any future complaints, and submit reports twice a year to the EEOC.
“Sexual harassers that take advantage of their power over employees must be held accountable. Requiring a third-party employee hotline and an independent EEO Consultant for employees should ensure that the conduct will not reoccur,” said a representative of the EEOC following the lawsuit.
There is a culture of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry that has affected many low-wage tipped employees, particularly young women. According to Harvard Business Review and Eater NY, more sexual harassment claims in the U.S. are filed in the restaurant industry than in any other, where as many as 90% of women reportedly experience some form of sexual harassment. If you work in the restaurant industry and feel you have been a victim of sexual harassment, please contact the attorneys at Pechman Law Group to schedule a free consultation.