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EEOC Continues Enforcement Focus on Restaurant Industry

    Client Alerts
  • May 16, 2008

Over the past several years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has brought a number of large class action and other suits against restaurant chains.  Among other claims, the EEOC has alleged that restaurant employees are especially susceptible to workplace discrimination and harassment.  Last week, the EEOC announced the settlement of two large claims brought against nationwide restaurant chains.

In the first case, Razzoo’s, a Cajun themed restaurant chain, agreed to pay $1 million to a class of male applicants and employees.  The EEOC alleged that the restaurant refused to hire or promote men to bartender positions.  Apparently, the restaurant believed that female bartenders brought in more revenue, and were the preferred servers for special events.  The EEOC rejected the employer’s contention that female sex appeal was a necessary component of the bartending positions.

In the second case, Specialty Restaurants, a California owner of several chains, agreed to pay $625,000 to a class of female employees allegedly subjected to sexual harassment by co-workers and supervisors.  The EEOC claimed that the employer retaliated against both male and female employees who complained about the harassment.

The EEOC places special emphasis on harassment claims from restaurants due to the large number of teenage employees who could be subject to this activity.  In both cases, the EEOC settlements required the employers to enhance their human resource oversight of individual restaurant operations, and to beef up training and disciplinary measures.