Two IHOP Restaurants to Pay Nearly $1 Million to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit
Jones Brown reports on a story out of Illinois: Two Southern Illinois International House of Pancakes (IHOP) franchises in Glen Carbon and Alton will pay $975,000 and furnish other relief to settle a systematic sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC sued on behalf of several female employees, some of which were teens at the time of their employment. An EEOC news release said that employees had suffered:
“offensive sexual comment, groping, physical threats, and in one instance attempted oral sex with a management employee.”
The two franchises will pay a combined $975,000 to the workers.
A 26-year-old woman who worked as a server at the IHOP in Glen Carbon was interviewed by the Belleville News-Democrat in March and had this to say:
They would follow us into the walk-in (cooler) when we went in there to get some produce to stock and they would pin us against the wall and touch us,” she said. “It was really scary.”
The lawsuit was filed in September 2017 (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al. v. 2098 Restaurant Group, LLC et al., Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-1002-DRH) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, seeking relief for more than 11 female employees at the Glen Carbon IHOP and one male employee at the Alton IHOP. Some of the female employees were teenagers at the time of the alleged harassment.
The consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge David R. Herndon, requires the defendants to pay compensatory damages to 16 harassment victims. The decree also requires the companies to implement, distribute and enforce tougher policies prohibiting sexual harassment and establish procedures for promptly investigating and addressing sexual harassment complaints.
The decree also requires the owner to be directly involved in preventing and correcting sexual harassment. The four-year decree further requires the defendants to provide sexual harassment training to employees, create and maintain documents regarding sexual harassment complaints, and post notices at their facilities. It also enables the EEOC to monitor the restaurants to determine whether harassment recurs, and, if so, that it is dealt with effectively. All the measures are intended to prevent further incidents of harassment.
“Employers are responsible for preventing workplace harassment – and their failure to do so hurts both their employees and their bottom line,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District. “Business owners and CEOs must be proactive and involved in making sure all managers and employees understand that harassment will not be tolerated, harassers will be punished, and those who report harassment will be protected from retaliation. Prevention starts at the top.”
James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District, said,
“The EEOC is committed to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. But when harassment does occur, we encourage affected employees – whether victims or bystanders – to report the harassment to their employers and, if necessary, to the EEOC to ensure the unlawful conduct does not continue.”
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC’s Youth@Work website (at https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/ ) presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination, including curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.
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