EEOC Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Upstate New York Restaurant

The restaurant industry is very familiar to New York City sexual harassment attorneys. The business model and managerial structure of many restaurants might never have been intended to foster multiple forms of sexual harassment, but that is exactly what happens far too often. Competition for shift assignments can lead unscrupulous supervisors and managers to take advantage of the power their positions give them. Reliance on tips can make servers hesitate to report or otherwise call out harassment. Behavior that creates a hostile work environment can go unchallenged as a result. Thankfully, many people are standing up for their rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing antidiscrimination law, recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of several women alleging sexual harassment by a chef at a restaurant in Upstate New York.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex and several other factors. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). The EEOC recognized sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII in the early 1980s. Court decisions and administrative rulings have expanded the legal definition of sexual harassment over the years.

Federal law now recognizes two general categories of sexual harassment. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a). Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when giving in to unwelcome demands for some sort of sexual activity is made a condition of someone’s employment or is the basis for employment decisions, including hiring and firing. A hostile work environment occurs when pervasive and unwelcome sexual conduct prevents a person from doing their job.

Congress created the EEOC when it enacted Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-4. Part of the agency’s mission is to “prevent any person from engaging in any unlawful employment practice” defined by the statute. Id. at § 2000e-5(a). This includes investigating charges filed by aggrieved employees and job applicants. The EEOC may decide to pursue a civil action against an employer on behalf of the complainants. If not, it must provide a notice to the complainant stating that they may file their own lawsuit against the employer. Id. at § 2000e-5(f)(1).

In the lawsuit described above, the EEOC filed suit on behalf of two women formerly employed by a restaurant in Rochester, New York. The alleged perpetrator, according to the EEOC’s complaint, began working for the defendant as a cook and was later promoted to head chef and kitchen manager. The complaint describes multiple alleged acts of sexual harassment and assault against the complainant and other female employees. The complainant’s allegations include inappropriate questions and overtures of a sexual nature, unwanted touching, and other intimidating behavior. The complainant claims that this conduct resulted in her constructive discharge. The restaurant was allegedly aware of all of these incidents but failed to take remedial action.

The experienced and knowledgeable New York City sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates advocate on behalf of workers in claims for harassment and other unlawful workplace practices. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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