Restaurant Chain to Pay $625,000 for Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week announced the resolution of its class action employment discrimination lawsuit against Specialty Restaurants Corp., an Anaheim, Calif.-based owner and operator of restaurants and banquet facilities nationwide, including Monterey Hill Banquets in Monterey Park, Calif. Under the EEOC settlement, the company has agreed to pay $625,000 to claimants and will adopt remedial measures to ensure that its employees are not sexually harassed.

In its suit, EEOC alleged that female workers were subjected to inappropriate touching, indecent and offensive comments, and other forms of sexually harassing conduct by co-workers and supervisors. In addition, at least one female employee was harassed based on her national origin. The federal agency further alleged that Specialty retaliated against both male and female employees who reported the harassment or cooperated with investigations.

"We commend the victims in this case for reporting the harassment," said Regional Attorney Anna Y. Park of the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office. "We also applaud the witnesses who, although not the direct targets of harassment, stepped forward to defend their co-workers."

EEOC Los Angeles District Director Olophius Perry added, "Harassment and retaliation affect far too many workers in the service industries. Every employer has a duty to protect its workforce from harassment. Specialty's willingness to change its policies and practices should serve as an example to the entire industry."

In FY 2007, sexual harassment charge filings with the EEOC and state/local agencies increased for the first time since FY 2000, numbering 12,510--up 4 percent from the prior fiscal year's total of 12,025. Retaliation charges increased 18 percent in FY 2007 to a record high level of 26,663, up from 22,555 in FY 2006. Retaliation is now the second most frequent charge filing with EEOC, the agency says.

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