EEOC Sues Virginia IHOP for Sexual Harassment

 
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
 
EEOC Sues Virginia IHOP Owner for Sexual Harassment and Constructive Discharge
Restaurant General Manager Sexually Harassed Women, Including Teen Workers, Federal Agency Charges

BALTIMORE – Koerner Management Group, Inc., doing business as IHOP (KMG), a Virginia based corporation that owns 12 IHOP restaurant franchises, subjected women, including teen workers, to sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agency charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a manager at KMG’s IHOP restaurant in Frederick, Md., subjected a group of female employees to unwanted advances and touching, including asking teen workers to show their breasts to him and exposing himself to a teen worker. The manager also made sexual comments about female employees’ attire and bodies, called them by denigrating sexual epithets, asked intrusive questions about their personal relationships, and showed one teen worker an explicit sexual video. The manager also solicited employees for sex and punished those who rejected his advances and gave preferential treatment to those who submitted, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC charges that the manager conditioned employment decisions on acquiescing to his sexual advances, including with respect to leave, scheduling, shift and table assignments, and other terms of employment. KMG did not have an effective anti-harassment policy or provide training on how to report harassment. KMG knew about the sexual harassment, including from one teen worker calling IHOP’s corporate office to complain, but KMG failed to stop the harassment, according to the lawsuit.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit --EEOC v. Koerner Management Group, Inc., d/b/a IHOP, Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-00652-- in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a serious problem in the restaurant industry,” said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “The EEOC is committed to protecting all workers from sexual harassment if an employer fails to do so.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “All employees have the right to earn a living without being subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, assaults or comments. Sexual harassment is especially pernicious when a manager harasses teen workers.”

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC's Baltimore Field Office, one of four component offices of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

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.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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