NEW YORK Sparks Steak House, an upscale steakhouse in New York City, will pay $600,000 and take other steps to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. Micheal Cetta Inc. d/b/a Sparks Steak House, Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-10601), 22 male waiters were subjected to harassment based on their sex, chiefly by one male manager, over a nearly eight-year period. The misconduct included the manager groping the buttocks of the male waiters, making lewd sexual comments and attempting to touch their genitals. Many of the waiters complained to other managers and Sparks' owners, but the harassment did not stop. Some victims of harassment suffered retaliation for complaining by being given more difficult work assignments and/or ultimately being suspended.
Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to paying the $600,000 in damages to be distributed among the victims, the restaurant must prohibit further sexual harassment and retaliation. The settlement also requires the restaurant to: 1) establish a complaint hotline for reporting incidents of discrimination; 2) distribute an amended policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation to all employees; 3) conduct anti-discrimination training for employees; 4) post a public notice about the settlement; and 5) report all sexual harassment and/or retaliation complaints to the EEOC.
"The EEOC is serious about upholding the law, which includes protection against same-sex harassment," said Charles F. Coleman, Jr., lead trial attorney on the case for the EEOC. "When an employer fails to address harassment and responds by retaliating against the victims, it compounds the violation. We believe this is a fair resolution."
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Robert D. Rose added, "The severe sexual harassment at Sparks ran rampant for too long. Employers must recognize and act on their duty to prevent sexual harassment of any kind."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov .