Despite Arrest at Work, Restaurant Manager Continued to Target Young Women

 
Friday, March 5, 2021
 

Medford Restaurant to Pay $120,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Suit

Despite Arrest at Work, Restaurant Manager Continued to Target Young Women, Including Minors, Federal Agency Charged

MEDFORD, Ore. — The restaurant New China will pay $120,000 and provide other signifi­cant relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that New China’s male restaurant manager repeatedly targeted female employees ages 15-20 with sexual comments and inappropriate touching that escalated from unwanted hugs to groping. In his 50s, the manager mostly worked the night shift. Because he spoke both English and Chinese, he was relied on to manage the English-speaking workers, which included the young women.

In one case, the EEOC said, he asked a 15-year-old employee to text him nude pictures of herself, which resulted in the Medford police arresting him at work for sexual abuse of a minor. Despite the manager’s eventual guilty plea to misdemeanor harassment as well as repeated employee complaints, the restaurant permitted him to return to work and failed to stop his behavior. Instead, the EEOC found that New China fired one female employee soon after she reported the manager’s con­duct, and that another felt she had no choice but to resign.

Workplace sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its con­ciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Medford Division, (Case No. 1:20-cv-00277-CL).

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $120,000 to five female former employees. New China must provide substantial anti-discrimination training to the owner, managers, supervisors, and employees, as well as training on how to investigate sexual harassment and retaliation complaints. The restaurant will also revise its policies and procedures and will post a notice for emp­loyees about the consent decree and employees’ rights.

Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko said, “We commend New China for working to resolve this matter and acknowledge its efforts to prevent future workplace harassment.”

Sienko added, “As noted in the report by EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, factors that increase the risk of harassment include the presence of many young workers and isolated workspaces, such as night shift work. Employers should send a clear message to these vulnerable workers that it is safe to report unwelcome conduct and that complaints will be proactively addressed.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy said, “It’s also critical to pay attention when there are significant power disparities in your workplace. Employers must apply workplace rules uniformly, without carving out exceptions for a highly valued manager lest that person start to consider himself immune from consequences of misconduct.”

The EEOC’s [email protected] website (at http://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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