Cheddar’s Franchisee to Pay $450,000 in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

From www.restaurantnews.com, by RestaurantNews.com
Cheddar’s Franchisee to Pay $450,000 in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Cheddar's Franchisee to Pay $450,000 in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Male Managers at Memphis Restaurant Sexually Harassed a Class of Female Employees, Federal Agency Charged

Mint Julep Restaurant Operations, LLC, an independent restaurant company and franchisee of the casual dining chain Cheddar’s Casual Café, will pay $450,000 to 15 individuals and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

EEOC’s lawsuit charged Cheddar’s violated federal law by maintaining a hostile work environment at its Winchester Road restaurant in Memphis by permitting sexual conversations and jokes and by allowing a general manager and bar manager to subject several female employees to sexual harassment. According to EEOC’s lawsuit, among other things, Cheddar’s managers made requests for sexual favors and explicit sexual comments, and subjected female employees to unwelcome touching. EEOC further alleged that despite having received complaints from its female employees, Cheddar’s did not respond to those complaints in a prompt and appropriate manner.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII’s prohibition against sexual harassment applies to all employees, including management officials. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Mint Julep Restaurant Operations, LLC, d/b/a Cheddar’s Casual Café, Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-02650) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Besides the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit includes:

  • mandatory anti-harassment training;
  • maintenance of workplace cameras;
  • monitoring workplace behavior;
  • notice of the settlement to Cheddar’s employees in its Memphis restaurant; and
  • reporting future complaints of sexual harassment to EEOC for three years.

“Having and disseminating an anti-harassment policy does not satisfy federal prohibitions against sexual harassment,” said Regional Attorney Faye Williams of EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which serves Tennessee, Arkansas and Northern Mississippi. “Employers must also enforce it. When an employer allows its managers to abuse its female employees in these ways and allows a sexually hostile work environment to persist, it is obviously not enforcing its anti-harassment policy. An unenforced policy is tantamount to having no policy at all.”

Mint Julep Restaurant Operations, LLC is the franchisee of at least 42 Cheddar’s Casual Cafés in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Its West Tennessee restaurants are located in Memphis, Cordova, and Jackson, Tenn.

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.