Movie Theater Chain to Pay for 'Sexually Hostile Workplace'

Regal Entertainment Group, a national movie theater chain, will pay $175,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency recently announced. EEOC had charged that the company subjected a male employee to sexual harassment by a female co-worker and then retaliated against him for complaining about the unlawful conduct -- along with two supervisors who tried to help.

In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that a male employee at a Regal theater in Marina del Rey, Calif., a section of Los Angeles, was subjected to a sexually hostile workplace by a female co-worker who repeatedly grabbed his crotch. When the male victim and his direct supervisor complained to the theater's then-general manager, she failed to take adequate steps to stop or prevent the harassment. Instead, EEOC said, she retaliated against the harassed employee and two other supervisory employees (male and female), who are part of EEOC's suit. The retaliation included unwarranted discipline, unfairly lower performance evaluations, and/or stricter scrutiny of performance.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit against Regal in 2006 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (U.S. EEOC v. Regal Entertainment Group, Inc., CV06-04145-ABC [CWx]) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

According to EEOC data, the percentage of men filing sexual harassment charges with the federal agency and state/local government agencies nationwide has increased over the past decade from 12 to 16 percent of all charges involving sexual harassment. In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the case requires Regal Entertainment Group to: provide annual anti-discrimination training to its employees; closely track any future discrimination complaints to conform to its obligations under Title VII; and provide annual reports to the EEOC regarding its employment practices.

EEOC's Los Angeles District Director Olophius Perry said, "The remedial relief contained in this settlement serves as a model for the entertainment industry in terms of voluntary compliance with federal discrimination laws. We are pleased that Regal is now taking the steps necessary to provide a discrimination-free workplace for all employees going forward."

According to its Web site, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based "Regal Entertainment Group operates the largest and most geographically diverse theatre circuit in the United States, consisting of 6,773 screens in 549 theatres in 39 states and the District of Columbia."

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