Florida employers who don’t take federal laws against employment discrimination seriously should pay attention to a settlement involving the company that runs a Florida Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The case involves harassment based on an employee’s race and sexual orientation at a restaurant in Plant City and subsequent retaliation.
According to the lawsuit, two employees subjected a co-worker to verbal harassment because he’s Black and gay. They used “racial and homophobic epithets on a consistent basis,” according to the EEOC. One of those employees also wore “Confederate flag paraphernalia” while working.
The employee who was being harassed reported the behavior to “various levels of management at the restaurant,” but nothing was done to stop it. When he eventually tried to report it to the corporate offices, Neighborhood Restaurant Partners Florida, LLC (NRP), his hours were cut back so much that he had to leave his job.
When the EEOC was unable to reach a settlement with the company out of court, it filed a lawsuit, alleging race and sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation. All of these are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The terms of the settlement
The $100,000 settlement finally agreed to and approved by a federal judge also requires the company to provide training to managers and human resources personnel on discrimination and responding to complaints. Further, an “internal consent decree monitor” will review all complaints of race and sexual orientation harassment within the company and the actions taken regarding the complaints.
The head of the EEOC said in response to the settlement that “EEOC is committed to robust enforcement of Title VII’s protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. This case also shows that racist slurs and paraphernalia remain a persistent problem that employers should be prepared to address in prompt and effective ways.”
No one should suffer harassment or discrimination in the workplace because of who they are. If they do, they should be able to count on those in charge to end it – and certainly not to penalize them for reporting illegal behavior. If your employer has been unwilling to put an end to discrimination or harassment against you, find out what legal options you have.